Skill Set Retreat at The Rowe Center

Skill Set, June 2017

Registration is now open for Skill Set's weeklong retreat for people 30 and under at the
Rowe Center, June 11-17, 2017! To register click here.

What is Skill Set? Our weeklong immersive retreats are an unusual blend of summer camp for people in their 20s, social justice bootcamp, and temporary experimental community. We come together to learn, connect with each other, and strategize about how to change the world. In addition to talking about broad social issues, we also focus on personal growth and transformation. We believe that the world won't change unless we, as individuals, can change, so we focus on both the personal and the systemic.

Some people come to Skill Set because they are already deeply involved with social justice work and want a retreat space to reflect and zoom out. Others come relatively new to thinking about social change, seeking community, connection, and growth. Our staff warmly welcomes people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and our programming aims to engage participants wherever they are in the process.

The leaders of Skill Set have an array of backgrounds, from education and youth empowerment to management consulting to criminal justice reform. As leaders, we try to create a space that lifts up many voices, supports many kinds of learning, and welcomes both seriousness and play. Past workshops at Skill Set have touched on economics, religion, clowning and improvisation, race and racism, thinking in systems, trauma and healing, and comedy. We welcome workshops and discussions led by participants!

If you’re trying to shake up your thinking, grow and change in your life, learn about social movements and resistance, or otherwise pursue transformation, Skill Set has something for you. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions. Click here to register for our June 11-17 retreat.

what people say after skill set

• “The workshops were extremely educational / enriching / well-planned”
• “It exceeded my expectations 10 fold, in the best way possible”
• “I felt so comfortable with people immediately on meeting them.. I was like ‘what are you guys putting in the water?’”
• “I feel grateful this retreat exists”
• “Incredible, extremely inspiring”
• “It was mind-bending and really special”

Skill Set


who should come to skill set?

Anyone who is interested in making new friends, reflecting on what to do with their life, and thinking about changing the world in a supportive community. Our prior retreat for people 30 and under had a large age spread, from 19 to 32, with a median age of 24. Please contact us if you are wondering whether this space is right for you, or if you have questions about the program.

where will we stay?

The Rowe Center's beautiful Berkshire campus has an array of buildings, including a large farmhouse and smaller cabins. You can mark your preferences about accommodations in the registration form.

what's the food situation?

Lauren Schaefer and Amiel Stanek, two of the Skill Set facilitators, will be leading culinary workshops, and we will work together throughout the retreat preparing meals for and cleaning up after one another. People of all skill levels will have an opportunity to learn about and practice cooking. We'll do our best to nourish you whatever your dietary needs are. We'll also have space to talk about work in the food industry, including service, cooking, and agriculture.

if I've never been to the Rowe Center before, can I still come?

Yes! All are welcome! Many of our staff members are relative newcomers to Rowe. Having attended youth camps or conferences at Rowe before is not a prerequisite. If you want to know more about what Rowe is like, you can check out their website!

do you guys have a secret ideology, or agenda, or something?

Not really. One thing we believe, that our friend Pippi Kessler says, is that "all people are inherently valuable," no matter what. So that informs some of what we do. For example, we believe that we should value people who come to our retreat, no matter what. We believe we should talk about systems like racism or classism that work to devalue people. But as a group of leaders and participants, we have a big range of beliefs and values.

what's the deal with skill set and diversity?

Skill Set is committed to inciting struggle against the vicious and unjust systems woven into our country's history and culture. As part of our commitment to anti-racism and class inclusivity, we strive to create facilitated space and curriculum that are accessible and relevant to people with many backgrounds and identities.

By virtue of a variety of structural factors (including remoteness and cost) Skill Set is less accessible than we wish. The leadership of Skill Set is also a majority white group connected to The Rowe Center, which is both a historically white institution and a space with a longstanding dedication to activism and social justice. Skill Set shares this dedication. We continue to work to lower barriers to attending Skill Set, and attempt in our work to push against historical power discrepancies, rather than recapitulate them.

In spite of our limitations, we aim to have brave conversations about identity, power, history, and social change that acknowledge our specific identities and experiences. The facilitators are in dialogue with mentors of varied identities around accountability, pedagogy, and method. If you're thinking about coming to Skill Set and are not sure if it's right for you, please get in touch with us!

Regarding ability, it's important to note that much of the Rowe campus (especially spaces only accessible through trails) is not wheelchair-friendly. Please contact us if you have questions about this, or other questions around accessibility.

what happens in a given day at skill set?

9:30 AM   wake up and breakfast
10:00   optional meditation and yoga groups
11:00   various morning workshops (might include follow-up conversations from the day before, helping out in the kitchen, or a guest presentation)
12:30 PM   lunch and lunch clean up
2:30    afternoon workshops 1 (several simultaneous workshops, usually something active, something discussion-based, and something skill-based, as well as dinner preparation)
4:00   afternoon workshops 2
6:00   dinner
7:00   dinner clean up
8:00   evening discussion groups (open space to form discussion groups around themes or questions that we're interested in, as well as to have Q&A sessions with presenters)
9:30   check-in (gathering with a small group to talk about your day, your thoughts, your feelings)
after check-in  late-night hangs, night-woods-exploring, saunas, and more!

registration and cost

For six days of programming, housing, and meals, we have a sliding scale between $300 and $760. Financial assistance is available and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. We don't have an official registration deadline, but space is limited. If you have questions about costs, registration, or transportation, please contact us.

Skill Set

work with us

Are you trying to make change in the world, or in your organization? If you need help with curriculum development, working with people in their 20s, having generative conversations about social justice, or building community, we got you.

Our staff includes people who work on organizational development, social work, community organizing, and ministry. We love supporting the work of other organizations. If you want to bring us to you,
please get in touch.

Skill Set

what is skill set?

Founded at the Rowe Center in 2013, Skill Set is a collective of educators and activists who believe in the potential of young people to make change and be changed in the process. We believe education should be holistic and convincing, and that everyone can learn about and work on changing the world.

We help young people figure out what to do with their lives by engaging in conversations about how our world works and what we can do about it.

Our approach to retreats has four elements:

What Skill Set does

→ Community building means living together, cooking for each other, checking in everyday.
→ Interpersonal skills include how to listen, how to resolve conflicts, how to set boundaries.
→ Personal growth means space to think deeply about where we're at in our own lives and what we want to happen next, for ourselves and our communities.
→ Political education means formal and informal conversation about how systems work, how change happens, and what we can do in our lifetimes to make the world better.

We aim at thinking all along the spectrum of the micro- to the macro-, from our passing individual thoughts and feelings, to big, abstract systems. We are hopeful. Get in touch with us via email or give a call at 774 239 5450.

Click here to get on our mailing list.