Vassar College: a bustling melting pot of various ideas, backgrounds and Retreat sushi (take the “retreat” as a warning, trust me). Amongst all of Vassar’s many different groups and organizations, there exists one much like the others (except with more facial hair and worse knees)—the Vassar Posse Vets. I know what you may be thinking: “Woah, Vassar has military vets? Who are they? And are the military stereotypes true? Do they really train bald eagles and only watch “Black Hawk Down” on an endless loop? And Posse? Is that a female Possum?”
Well folks, I, as a Vet myself, must come forward and lay down the truth: Posse is not a female possum (though great name idea if you have a possum). It’s a scholarship program that selects Vets from around the country and provides us with an opportunity to attend fine institutions like Vassar. Oh, also, the eagles are actually not trained, they just flock to us, and it’s not a movie we watch on loop, but actually a live feed of an American flag factory. These questions and more could have been answered this past weekend at the Posse Plus Retreat (PPR), an annual event where all the Posse Vets currently attending Vassar, along with faculty members and regular students, go away for a weekend in the nice zero-degree weather to bond—which proved easy to do when we were all cuddling together by the fireplace.
The retreat began Friday afternoon at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, NY, a beautiful New York getaway nested near
many Native American settlements. This is particularly important to acknowledge because, the same week that the President delivers the State of the Union speech, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents a yearly address named “The State of Indian Nations.” Jokes aside, I seriously encourage watching this important address.
At the retreat, we had Vassar professors and staff, as well as Posse facilitators, who led the activities and group exercises. So if you wanted to get to know more about a professor you admire, or you simply wanted a good excuse for them to extend a deadline on an overdue homework assignment, then inviting them was the way to go! After introductions and warm-up exercises, the group jumped right into the topic of discussion for this year’s retreat, “The State of Our Union.” It was then that I understood the decision to host the retreat near a campground— when discussing the current administration, breaks to shout into the woods are a must.
As one would expect, the state of the union is a difficult topic to speak about, and there are many approaches by which to go about it. However, Posse staff nailed it: They broke down the core pillars of our country’s foundation into organized topics. Staff provided all attendees with a chance to speak their minds in an accepting environment and for others to politely challenge or even disagree with their ideas—all the while maintaining a peaceful conversation. I am actually hoping I can have the Posse organization to come to my house for Thanksgiving this year and lead discussion there as well, as this past year got a little…violent, to say the least. Although my grandma did use her one phone call to tell me she loved my mashed potatoes, so that was a high note.
On Saturday we had the bulk of the activities, all centered around group discussion. We spoke on topics of race, education, gentrification, gender and many other issues that currently dominate the political climate of our country. Needless to say, we were able to fix all of the issues and solve all the problems, all in the nick of time for dinner. Okay, maybe not all the issues were solved (that would have taken two weekends), but I can say that I left many activities feeling more involved in several topics, and even more interested in ones that didn’t directly affect me, which is really the point of all of this—to encourage discussion on how to make our community and our nation better.
Saturday night there was a lighter side to things, and we got to witness a “No-Talent Talent Show,” which is good because that is exactly my talent. The acts, however, did include many talents, such as reading bad Yelp reviews, scaring Michelle Obama (and then trying to fight Barack), performing standup comedy, dancing better than Beyoncé and even mind reading! What an amazing opportunity not only to see another side of your teachers and friends, but also to obtain blackmail material. It was a fantastic wrap-up to quite an eye-opening weekend. I know I personally forged some friendships, learned many lessons, used the time for self-reflection and pushed a few people in order to desperately get to a picture of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez <3 that was hanging in the portrait gallery in the meeting room we were using. I highly recommend attending the PPR next year if you can, as I believe that it is an amazing weekend of self-reflection, free food and learning more about a community that lives amongst you at school. And who knows? At the end of the trip, if us Vets really like you, we may even let you borrow a bald eagle or two.