Local seventh graders gained a new perspective on how to handle peer pressure situations.

They recently attended a “Courage” retreat, hosted by Youth Frontiers, a Twin Cities-based group, whose mission is to “partner with schools to build communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically.”

Spring Grove High School counselor Scott Solberg and math teacher Chris Strinmoen set up the retreat, which was partnered with Houston seventh graders because of the small class size for both schools.

This is the second year of hosting the retreat for Spring Grove students. In addition, five upperclassmen came along to act as peer mentors during small group activities.

“In seventh grade, there’s a lot of peer pressure,” Solberg said. “This (retreat) teaches students to have courage to do the right thing. Listen to yourself. Do what you think is right. Stand up for yourself.”

Three staff members from Youth Frontiers taught students to focus on group mentality rather than one specific area such as bullying.

“Sometimes group mentality is great, but sometimes you get caught up in how the group acts,” Solberg said. “It’s easy to go with the group, but if they’re not doing what you think they should, then kids will have the courage to go their own way.”

The retreat had large-group and small-group activities for students. Youth Frontiers focuses on three learning points including: identifying personal fears, committing to making school a better place, and deepening relationship with classmates to break down social barriers.

They use a combination of high energy music and staff members, community-building activities, personal stories from staff members and follow up videos after the retreat to teach students how to have courage to stand up for themselves when faced with a peer pressure situation.

Solberg said the retreat helped the students understand a common language.

“It’s the kind of thing parents and teachers can tell them until they’re blue in the face, but when an outside voice comes in and tells them, kids respond to the same message in a different way,” he said.

He added that Spring Grove was “pretty lucky to have a pretty good group of kids.”

“It kind of reinforced what they already knew, so hopefully they take that and bring it back,” Solberg said.

“For our school, it’s little more pre-emptive. It’s good to have the skills before an incident happens, not be reactive to it. Before we have to fix it, let’s make sure everyone knows what to do.”

Youth Frontiers was founded in 1987 and has retreats for students in grades fourth to senior year.

They focus on kindness, courage, wisdom, respect and leadership. There are also retreats for educators focusing on honor, purpose and mind.