PHOTO COURTESY: NICOLE GALASSO
SOLD OUT: Two words every event producer wants to hear, but not all get the chance to experience. Days before “The Millennials Retreat,” when St. John’s graduate student Kristi Campbell realized her event was sold out, all she could think about was how to ensure that all 100 attendees would have the best possible experience.
“I wanted to create an event that provided minority students with the opportunity to network and learn the gems of life,” she said. “We knew that we wanted to have breakout sessions and panel discussions that were intentional.”
Campbell also says she wanted to ensure that students got to experience camaraderie in a safe space.
According to their Eventbrite posting, “The Millennials Retreat,” held on April 14, was a six-hour event that provided young adults with tips and advice on to how to find travel deals, navigate their faith, entrepreneurial tricks, ways to build their finances, ways to live a purpose-driven life and maneuver 21st century dating. The event kicked off with a “welcome” and also featured performances and a lunch.
“The Millennials Retreat” was planned in collaboration with Haraya, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Student Government Inc., Collegiate Curls, the St. John’s chapter of the NAACP and Women In Sports and Entertainment (WISE).
The project was in the works for a year, and Campbell and her team spent about two months on pre-production.
“About ten of us met weekly in DAC to prepare,” she said.
The panels and breakout sessions featured Morgan Brown, a travel blogger, Anaya Roderick, a fashion blogger and wardrobe stylist, Ansel Augustine, a minister, Caleb Merlain, co-founder of Eden and St. John’s alum and Sheneya Wilson, founder of Fola Financial.
“On the panel you had anything from travel influencers to ministers to past students,” Campbell said.
The first interactive session was a girl code and guy code talk, which Campbell refers to as “beauty shop and barber shop talk.”
The next was a series of different panels which tackled faith, travel, entrepreneurship, finances and self love.
Junior Marvelous Abraham spoke on a panel about faith. He is a resident assistant in Seton Complex and a member of Eden.
“I brought insight about having faith in all that you do – if you’re trying to an entrepreneur, fashion designer, or whatever career you feel like you desire to be in,” Abraham said.
“Kristi and her team did such an amazing job. This is something that needs to be done every year. I learned a lot from so many people.“
Campbell said her team faced a number of obstacles in the production process of the event, including some people announcing their sudden unavailability and dropping out at the last minute. However, Campbell said the support from the St. John’s community definitely helped to mold the event into what she envisioned.
“We received financial support from SGI,” she said. “From start to finish, there was consistent support. Everything got done because the support was crazy.”
Merlain, one of the panelists, says he was “grateful and humbled” to be a part of the retreat.
“I was one of the speakers for the Faith Breakdown,” he said. “It was so refreshing to speak to fellow young adults on from this fresh perspective on how we approach our faith in these current times. I think the retreat was so crucial to the millennial experience because the world is always changing very so quickly. It starts to get hard to navigate life when you feel like you don’t know where you’re going. The millennial retreat almost creates a road map pulling from the experience of fellow peers and mature mentors to help guide the way. It’s an exchange of thoughts, dreams and hope which paves our way.”
Campbell, an MBA candidate studying Computer Information Systems, hopes the event will become an annual St. John’s staple. She planned and produced the event while working as an activities specialist at the Jamaica YWCA, working as a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Diversity Peer Educators program and working as a travel agent, amongst other things.
“Had these not been my passion – if i didn’t have a love for travel, kids and pursuing higher education, I don’t think this would’ve been possible,” she said.
During her undergraduate career, Campbell was an Ozanam scholar, a resident assistant, a RISE mentor a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and she also studied abroad in Rome..
Campbell advises students with multiple passions to take it one day at a time.
“Don’t let society convince you that you have to have it all figured out in a certain time frame.”