Barranca Helpers Participate In Retreat

Barranca Helpers during Saturday’s retreat. Courtesy photo

Barranca Helpers during a ‘Helper Retreat’ Saturday at Barranca Mesa Elementary School. Courtesy photo

A blindfolded Barranca Helper on a ‘trust walk’ with a companion during Saturday’s retreat at Barranca Mesa Elementary School. Courtesy photo

A blindfolded Barranca Helper on a ‘trust walk’ with a companion during Saturday’s retreat at Barranca Mesa Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Barranca Helpers Staff Sponsor
Barranca Mesa Elementary School

The Barranca Helpers participated in a Helper Retreat on Saturday, November 19, 2022.  This was an opportunity for students to learn about each other, develop trust, and form a support system that they can rely on for years to come.  Before getting to work, the group agreed on norms for the morning so that everyone was on the same page.  Once this was complete, they set to work on growing both as individuals and as a group.

After talking about different types of communication, they participated in a trust walk.  They were divided into groups of two for this activity.  Then with one person blindfolded and one person not blindfolded, they moved around the school; each taking a turn being blindfolded.  Students had the opportunity to feel what it is like to be responsible for helping another navigate safely and keeping their trust.  They also felt what it was like to have to trust someone else for their safety and movement around school.  They reported that experiencing the exercise from both sides was powerful and helped them learn about themselves as well as connect them to their partners.  A number of groups reported, “I trust my partner so much more now after doing this together.”  Another Helper reported, “I didn’t think it would be hard but putting my trust in someone else was hard and I felt confused and nervous about not being in control.”  Everyone learned something by completing this exercise.  

We also learned about taking care of ourselves and how to help others.  Helpers discussed issues that students face, learned how to be supportive of others, and when to go to a trusted adult for extra help.  Through role playing, they practiced noticing that someone is having a hard time, connecting with them & offering support, actively listening, helping them work through situations without giving advice themselves, and checking on them later. They were surprised that it was more challenging than they thought it would be and asked to practice more at our meetings.  

Throughout the morning, I listened to them, watched them, and was amazed by them.  This group of helpers is compassionate, insightful, and inspiring. They were genuine, honest and supportive of each other.  In the span of four hours, I could see growth in them as individuals and as a group.   Our time together was powerful and so important.  As we hugged and said goodbye, I heard them say things like, “We need to do this again.” or “I feel so good about today.”  These helpers are going to touch the world in their own special ways.  I am so honored to be a part of their journey.

I want to thank Kate Cleveland for joining me as an adult sponsor this year.  She helped facilitate the retreat on Saturday and will continue to work with our group moving forward.  I think together we can support the Helpers in their mission of making a difference. 

As always, we couldn’t have these moments and experiences without the support of Los Alamos JJAB.  They have been with me and this program since the beginning many, many years ago.  With their help, I have been able to empower helpers to grow in confidence that their place in the world matters and that they are making a difference everyday.  

McGrane has a B.S. in Health Science/Education with a minor in Psychology from the University of Arizona, a Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Educational Technology from Hamline University, and an Elementary Education degree from Northern New Mexico College. Her master’s research/thesis was built around student motivation in education. She has worked with youth 3 – 18 years of age in a variety of settings and from a variety of backgrounds for more than 20 years. She is trained in both Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Prevention. Her book, “Teaching While Handcuffed” is available on (Prime) at