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Crowd welcomes ORR seventh graders home from Survival Week

Jun 23, 2018

Rows of parents, siblings, and friends, many of whom were holding signs and balloons, lined the sidewalks in front of Old Rochester Regional Junior High School Saturday afternoon to welcome seventh graders returning from a six-day “Survival Week” excursion.

Survival Week is a long-running tradition at ORR during which seventh graders, accompanied by chaperones, make temporary shelters and spend a week off the grid in the woods of Northfield, Mass.

“There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the state, or anywhere else I know of,” Rochester Police Chief Paul Magee said while helping to unload the students’ backpacks from a moving truck several hours before the students returned.

Magee, who went on the trip when he was a student at ORR in the early 1980s, has been volunteering as a chaperone for more than 20 years.

Although Magee said he “hated” Survival Week when he was a student, he’s come to appreciate the value the program offers kids.

“It gives the kids a great appreciation for the things that they have, like water, food, electricity, showers,” the chief said. “It’s a great tradition and has become a rite of passage around here.”

Magee said that the trip is completely optional, and that roughly half of the school’s seventh grade class participates each year. This year, more than 150 students ventured out for the trip. They returned home in three school busses, accompanied by a police escort.

Student Cooper Studley said the trip was more fun that he thought it would be and that the experience was a powerful one.

“It made me appreciate my parents a lot more because they give me so much food and a bed to sleep in,” Studley said. “I won’t take that for granted now.”

Nate Robertson, another student, agreed that it was a worthwhile experience.

“We got to do something most people never do,” Robertson said. “It made me realize how much I love my bed.”

Addisyn Petrulli, who also survived Survival Week, said she didn’t even miss having internet connection on her iPhone.

“Everything we needed was right there,” she said, eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream her parents brought for her.

In addition to maintaining their shelters, which were makeshift tents made of plastic sheets, the students were kept busy with hikes and team-building games throughout the week.

Petrulli said that the games and the experience overall brought her classmates closer to one another.

All students and chaperones who were interviewed upon their return had a unanimous answer when asked what was the first thing they were going to do when they got home.

“Shower,” they all said, without hesitation.

Petrulli was on the lead bus arriving to the school, which was full of students chanting loudly.

“It was one of the camp songs they taught us,” she said. “We like it here, we love it here, we finally found a home.”