Teen-led program Operation Snowball empowers students in the midst of the pandemic


Keith Fedyski

Students participate in Operation Snowball, a teen-led retreat held in Naperville Central’s world and classical languages hallway and little theatre on Oct. 23-24

Paige Owens, Correspondent

Naperville Central hosted Operation Snowball, the teen-led program that informs students about drug and alcohol misuse, peer pressure and healthy coping mechanisms, on Oct. 23-24 after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Operation Snowball’s main goal is to positively contribute to the community by empowering students. 

“It’s called Snowball because it’s the idea that if I’m making positive choices and being a positive person, like a snowball rolling down a hill, it’s going to collect that snow and collect those positive choices and influence others,” Crystal Griffith, biology teacher and adult staff leader, said. 

While the program is geared towards informing participants about issues that many teens face, there are also fun activities that create a comfortable environment for participants. During the retreat, the leaders reintroduced  some traditions from the program. 

“[Warm fuzzies] are balls of yarn that we all wear on the weekend,” Griffith said. “Everybody has one and it’s an easy way to go up to someone and say ‘Hey, can I give you a warm fuzzy?’ They’re called that because they make you warm and fuzzy on the inside. You just tie the piece of yarn around somebody else’s necklace, and you have that moment of sincere connection.”

Restrictions due to COVID-19 have impacted the retreat and not every tradition could be performed, such as staying overnight.  

“Normally we do it at a camp, but we decided to do it here inside the Little Theater and the foreign language hallway,” teen director and senior Jenna Smiley said. “It was definitely different being inside a school environment, but it honestly didn’t feel like school.”

Although this retreat was very different from past ones prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the participants and leaders enjoyed it just as much. 

“I think it went amazing,”  Smiley said.  “We have a closing large group where we get feedback on what has happened throughout the past weekend, and everyone was so positive. We almost ran out of time for comments, it was just so intense.”

Operation Snowball is held biannually in the fall and spring. The next  retreat will be in April of 2022. 

“It is truly just for teens to come and have fun,” Griffith said. “Everybody should give themselves the chance at least once in high school to come try it out.”