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Stories of Stevenson: Abia Jeelani Basha

District Communications
article banner for Stories of Stevenson featuring student Abia Jeeani Basha

"It was so wholesome," student Abia Jeelani Basha said of her entire Operation Snowball experience. Abia, who enjoys stepping outside of her comfort zone, applied for a staff position for this year's Operation Snowball, a fun-filled two-and-a-half-day retreat planned by students for students at Camp Timberlee in Wisconsin. It provides an opportunity for students to hone their leadership skills, make new friends and venture beyond their comfort zone. For Abia and many others, though, it goes so much deeper than that.

students posing for a photograph while at a winter retreat

You may be questioning how a two-day retreat can foster such change among the attendees. Through a combination of speakers, small group discussions, a talent show and other activities, students embraced their vulnerability and more openly shared their personal experiences with others.

"Cross the Line" was one of several activities that helped strengthen the bond between campers and staff. A simple yet powerful activity in which prompts are read aloud and people take a step forward if it pertains to them. The prompts varied from the amusing "Who here hasn't taken a shower yet?" to more sensitive questions about family dynamics or relationships. Abia thought of this practice as "a big eye-opener."

Stevenson Student Abia having a laugh

“You would never expect or assume something about someone just by looking at them. Towards the end of it, everyone was teary-eyed and comforting each other. It was really bonding and sweet,” Abia said.

The impact of this retreat can be credited to the concerted efforts of the sponsors, staff and students collaborating to cultivate a nurturing environment. Abia paid special appreciation to individuals who stood up to comfort and support their peers when needed, such as during the "Cross the Line" activity. This exercise is a brief snapshot that highlights what Abia describes as Operation Snowball's motto: “We hope the friendships you make at Operation Snowball snowball into a bigger friendship at school.” 

While looking back at her memories from Operation Snowball, it’s clear that the retreat’s motto came to life at Camp Timberlee as she recalls how “some students stood out amongst the rest and everyone would eventually go up to comfort them and hug them and it was really sweet to see those relationships form.” 

students relaxing and laying on the floor during a winter retreat

Operation Snowball photos by Justin Taleysnik ('24)