Creating the Crew

Journalism major Alicia Taylor-Domville was part of the midweek retreat in early August that gave birth to Cardinal Crew, a diverse group of students who are committed to growing York spirit as they learn leadership skills. Here’s her report:

Fifty York students responded to a call from Acting Assistant VP for Enrollment Management  Michel Hodge for people ready to create a change in their everyday school surroundings and in the image of their college. To prepare, they left those school surroundings for a trip upstate.

Through word of mouth and devotion to the idea that students could lead a renewal of York’s spirit and unity, Hodge and his group were able to recruit incoming freshmen as well as  graduating seniors. The first event planned for the Cardinal Crew members was an off-campus retreat. At the retreat-planning meeting, each student was asked to give a reason for joining Cardinal Crew.

“I heard through the grapevine about Cardinal Crew and decided to check it out” said junior Aziza Adams, reflecting the common answer. The idea that they would spend three days off campus seemed like a bonus.

Day one began with a keynote speaker – Allan H. Dobrin, CUNY’s executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer – and an alumni panel discussion. Four of the five alumni now work at York. All seem to notice the school spirit they had while undergraduates was beginning to return. After the panel discussion the recruits were asked to participate in a physical activity conducted by Jessica Cherry, assistant director of Athletics.

Following the physical activity the students boarded the bus to embark on their journey to the Warwick Conference Center 50 miles away in Orange County. During the bus ride, friendships and connections already seemed to be forming -- conversations about majors and neighborhoods,  what to expect at the retreat and the crew’s required reading, a book called “Fish,.” filled the atmosphere for most of the ride.           

When arriving to the Warwick Center the first thing many students noticed was the tranquility of the environment and what a difference it was from the busy city life they were accustom to. After getting room assignments and dropping bags off, the students reconvened in the meeting room. The students received a visit from President Marcia V. Keizs in which she discussed her lifelong academic journey and expressed her hope for Cardinal Crew. For the rest of the day students formed groups of 10 called flocks and completed exercises such as discussing their cultural identities, qualities they feel they each have and the philosophy expressed in “Fish.”

To end the night Hodge set up a camp-fire in the woods where the students made s’mores to the best of their abilities. After returning to their rooms you might think these Cardinals would shower and rest up for the 12-hour day ahead. Not quite. Many chose to shower, put on their pajamas and have a pajama party to continue bonding until they were danced out.

Day two of the retreat was lead by Teamworks founder Kristen Skarie, who worked with your York’s “Leadershape” group last year. Skarie leads groups all over the country including corporate America. She started the day by asking the students to reflect on why they are Cardinal Crew, compared to the answers they gave just 24-hours earlier. Students now said they wanted to make a change in their school environment, raise school spirit and inspire others to attend York and join the Cardinal Crew.

Skarie had the students discuss creating, improving and spreading the Cardinal Crew brand. The first step was to discuss what the strengths of Cardinal Crew would be, what crew members liked about it and what they wanted the York community to like about it. Many of the groups loved that the Crew was so diverse and were hoping to get more students to become involved not only with Cardinal Crew but in all school and club events.

Throughout the day the crew participated in physical and mental activities that required teamwork and communication skills, furthering the bond between the members. The final task of day two was a role playing game in which groups of students created scenarios in which different York faculty, staff and students would approach the Cardinal Crew looking for help for different causes and reasons. The role plays were all very comedic but had valid points and though each group took different approaches their points were made efficiently. 

On the last day of the retreat each Cardinal wore their red shirts representing what it means to be a Cardinal. (You’ll see those shirts and others identifying Cardinal Crew members at events throughout the school year.) After a group photo, each flock came up with a unique pose for its official picture. The students in their flocks were given the responsibility of creating lists of ideas, task and budgets they wanted to accomplish for the upcoming school term – and then taking 10 minutes to combine them into one Cardinal Crew list.  After much debating the ideas – including a way to make Cardinal Crew a permanent organization and expand its community service goals -- were presented to Hodge and Jerald Posman, senior vice president and York’s Chief Operating Officer.

As the Cardinal Crew boarded the bus for the ride back to Jamaica, many of them expressed their satisfaction about the retreat.

“I loved the experience, I think that this retreat will be the start of a new chapter at York” said senior Alvin Victor. Cardinal Crew is a group of enthusiastic young people striving to make a difference at York College, not only for themselves but for the entire community and future Cardinals.

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