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September 26th, 2008
SMA senior boys enjoy retreat at Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacios

SAN MARCOS, TX – Seniors boys from San Marcos Academy traveled to the Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacios Sept. 18-21 to initiate a new school tradition. For the past 42 years, the Academy’s senior girls have participated in a fall weekend retreat at the H.E.B. Foundation Camp near Leakey, Texas, but a comparable event had never been planned for the senior boys. Admissions Director Jeff Baergen and Dormitory Director Corey Boyer decided to change that this year.

“This is something we have wanted to do for several years, but our schedule of events here is always so full, we were never able to work it in,” Baergen said. “This year we managed to find an open weekend that didn’t conflict with football and all the other fall activities. Of course, it ended up being the week after Hurricane Ike hit, but luckily, Palacios didn’t suffer any serious damage and we were still able to go.”

With a date on the schedule, Baergen and Boyer recruited Campus Minister Brent Bowden to join the planning team, and four other adults from the faculty and staff signed on as well. They began creating a program that would allow the boys to have fun, build camaraderie, complete a service project, and develop leadership skills. Inspired by the school’s 90-year-old motto, “Ad Viros Faciendos” (“Toward the Making of Men”), the staff decided to include discussion sessions on the responsibilities of being a man in today’s society and how the world’s concept of manhood compares to the Biblical concept of manhood.

“We wanted the topics to be student driven,” Baergen said. “These are smart kids, and we wanted them to have a lot of input. We showed them several movie clips to introduce the way men are depicted by Hollywood. Then in small groups, the students selected some of the traits exhibited by the actors, such as courage and maturity, and they discussed those concepts in terms of how they applied to their own lives and how they can develop those traits in positive ways.”

As for service, the boys were divided into work groups and given the task of demolishing an old building on the campus of the Texas Baptist Encampment, which is the oldest encampment west of the Mississippi River. “The building had been unused for some time and was becoming an eyesore on the campus,” Baergen said. “It’s something their staff had always wanted to do, but apparently they didn’t have the time or resources, so we were glad to help.”

Baergen said that in their nine hours of work, the boys were able to make a great deal of progress on the building, taking off one full side, removing contents of the attic, and pulling down the walls of the attic. “The majority of our kids really got into it,” Baergen said of the project. “We received good feedback from James Brown, a maintenance worker who assisted us. He said he couldn’t remember another group who were as polite and hard-working as our boys were.”

Rob Kessler, executive director of the Encampment, added, “I didn’t think they would get that far with the project, but they were very well organized and put plenty of guys on it, and they just did a fabulous job. They stayed at it and cleaned up afterward and it went really well. It was a first phase of tearing down a 50-year-old eyesore from the campus, and they definitely did the hardest part for us.”

Knowing that all work and no play can make senior boys a dull and cranky group, the Academy staff also put plenty of fun on their agenda. For several hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, the boys were divided into four groups for some competitive games and relays. Times were recorded so the teams could earn bonuses for the final relay that took place on the last day of the camp and by all accounts was a highlight of the trip. In addition to the planned activities, free time for swimming or relaxing by the pool was also provided.

“I think the retreat was a positive experience overall,” Bowden said. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell what young people do and don’t pick up on during discussions, but we tried to present the idea of how to be a man in a godly way. For those who were all ears, it gave them an opportunity to think about that; for those who were skeptics, it gave them an opposing idea to wrestle with in the coming weeks.”

Baergen said he was glad that the senior boys were finally able to have a retreat of their own and expects it to be a tradition in the coming years. “We’re asking the boys for their critiques and should find ways to fine-tune and improve the event in the future,” Baergen said. “For the most part, I’m proud of the way the boys behaved. It exceeded my expectations of how they would react to the weekend. I’m also so grateful for the staff who basically gave up four days of their time and worked so hard to make this a success.”

San Marcos Academy is a fully accredited college preparatory school committed to educating young men and women within a nurturing community based upon Christian values. The Academy offers a unique co-educational experience for both boarding and day students in the 7th through 12th grades. Founded in 1907, the Academy is now in its second century of operation. San Marcos Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).

For more information about the San Marcos Academy please visit

From Shelley Henry
San Marcos Baptist Academy

Group Photo: Standing in front of the partially demolished building at the Texas Baptist Encampment, the senior boys of San Marcos Academy and their sponsors take a break from the service project they completed at their recent retreat.

SMA Boys Retreat: With a crowbar in hand, San Marcos Academy senior David Abugaber climbs into the attic of a building at the Texas Baptist Encampment, where the senior boys held their recent retreat and completed nine hours of service.

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