Opening Retreat Weekend Launches a Promising Start to the Year for Torchbearers

Excitement was high on Friday, January 17th, when Torchbearers Class of 2020 gathered for the first time at the Akron Zoo’s Komodo Kingdom. The 40 new members were joined by returning Torchbearers members for an evening of relationship building and learning about the organization.

Torchbearers Board President Vish Bhatt and Vice President Willie Cook made opening remarks, and all members of the 2020 board were introduced. Akron Zoo Vice President of Communications Linda Criss welcomed Torchbearers to the space and shared a few stories about the zoo’s history and mission.

There was also time to explore the exhibits in Komodo Kingdom for an after-hours look at Galapagos tortoises, golden lion tamarins, tropical birds, and, of course, Komodo dragons.

The next day, members reconvened at University of Akron School of Law for orientation and connection.

Torchbearers board members led groups of new and returning members through a few exercises designed to build relationships, promote Akron, and brainstorm strategies for enriching the community:

  • Team Building: Members were placed in small groups to work on brain teaser puzzles together and get to know each other by sharing personal stories based on common themes and prompts.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Board members collected input on how to better serve specific needs and groups within the greater Akron community and led discussions on how Torchbearers could support the implementation of these efforts and engagement of those who would be impacted.
  • Building Akron: In small groups, members created mock presentations to showcase Akron as an excellent city for young professionals to call home. The work gave members a chance to share their enthusiasm for the greater Akron community and its many attractive features, including job diversity, family friendliness, the arts scene, the park systems, and more.

“My favorite part of the retreat was the different groups we participated in and getting to know everyone,” said Andrea Stephens, Class of 2020. “It was nice to laugh and learn about each other on different levels personally and professionally and to connect with returning members.”

During lunch, committee co-chairs delivered short pitches about the responsibilities and learning opportunities their respective committees offered in order to help new members choose which one to join.

The room was full of smiles as the second day came to a close with final remarks from Vish Bhatt and a promising start to a new year for Torchbearers.