Welcome To The Tribe: Ya-A-Te retreat promotes student leadership, teamwork

Jan 08, 2014 by

In the Apache vernacular, “ya-a-te” means “welcome,” making it the perfect name for Tyler Junior College’s leadership retreat held every August for incoming freshmen and returning sophomores.

Now in its seventh year, Ya-A-Te has become a popular TJC tradition and a rite of passage for new Apaches.

“It prepared me better for the things to come and helped me be a more social person,” Rusk freshman Emilee Caldwell said. “I will be back next year!”

The primary goal of Ya-A-Te is to provide students with the skills needed to be successful campus leaders. At a four-year institution, students would have more time to explore organizations, gain experience and ease into leadership roles. At a two-year institution such as TJC, students have less time to prepare for leadership positions.

Ya-A-Te puts TJC students on a fast track to responsibility and teaches them skills such as time management, diversity, teamwork and career planning.

“In addition to learning valuable leadership skills, Ya-A-Te also provided me an opportunity to build lasting relationships,” says Cody Wooster, a freshmen nursing major from Baytown.

Ya-A-Te participants compete in a variety of games and teambuilding exercises during their four-day retreat.

Ya-A-Te participants compete in a variety of games and teambuilding exercises during their four-day retreat.

The TJC Office of Student Affairs and the Center for Student Life and Involvement staff plan and execute the retreat. In addition, there are some faculty and staff members who volunteer their time to teach various workshops and assist with training and developing these future TJC leaders.

Each year, Houston-based motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles provides educational sessions throughout the four-day retreat on confidence building, public speaking and personality types.

“Mr. Sprinkles really helped me to discover the qualities of a successful leader, which in turn helped me to become student body president today,” said Chase Flemming, a sophomore biology major from Hallsville.

During Ya-A-Te, freshmen and sophomores attend numerous workshops designed specifically for their classification. Presenters tailor the messages to apply to the needs of eager, incoming freshmen or those of more experienced sophomores.

Students are also divided into four tribes, each with its own traditional Apache tribal name such as Kiowa, Mescalero, Lipan and Chiricahua. This allows them to meet and become acquainted not only with students in their cabin, but also other Apaches in their tribes and their class.

Throughout the years this program has had many improvements such as the addition of tribal games that take place five times throughout the camp to provide an opportunity for bonding, teamwork and perseverance.

“It was very competitive and a great team experience because you learned how to bond with your team and work with a diverse group,” said La’Quisha Rose, a freshman nursing major from Mesquite.

The first Ya-A-Te was held on campus in 2007, and it was held at Sky Ranch in Van the next year. Since 2011, it has been held at Pine Cove Camp. Student tribal leaders and camp coordinators were added to the staff in 2012, to allow even more leadership opportunities for more experienced students. After each year’s retreat, staff members evaluate what worked and what could be improved upon, to make Ya-A-Te better each year.

Staff members strive to provide incoming freshmen with a smooth transition from high school to college along with vital information to become actively involved in campus life.

Meanwhile, Ya-A-Te delivers the necessary tools for returning sophomores to be able to take initiative on campus and become leaders inside and outside the classroom. The mentorship aspect and guidance comes naturally throughout the week as freshmen interact with sophomores through games and activities.

Tyler sophomore Urbano Lino said, “Ya-A-Te was a thrilling experience. It was a great chance to interact with individuals with different perspectives concerning college and their life’s ambitions.”

The future for Ya-A-Te looks bright as it serves all three promises of TJC with educational leadership sessions, fun activities, and participation in community service during the retreat. This is one TJC tradition that is sure to continue.
Lauren Tyler is TJC director of student activities.


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