Operation Snowball - a weekend adventure for high school students

Friends having fun at Operation Snowball at MTHS the weekend of January 18-20 included (top, from left) Kayla Hughes, Nadia Friedan, Tegan Roberts, Kevin Kurtz, Chloe Springer, Caroline Curry, (bottom, from left) Owen Cushing, Kathryn Blackburn and Hannah Bott. 

During the weekend of January 18-20, Metamora Township High School held its 29th Operation Snowball. Operation Snowball is a lock-in at the high school that any MTHS student can attend. The weekend is busy and fun-filled. However, Operation Snowball has an extremely important purpose, especially for today’s high school students. The ultimate goal of Snowball is to create an environment where teens feel comfortable opening up about their struggles; any of them, from grade anxiety to drug addiction.

Operation Snowball is also used as a way to encourage teens to stay away from drugs, alcohol, sex and suicidal thinking.

Now I know what you are thinking: “Oh my gosh, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to sit through anti-drug assemblies and speeches, that’s all schools talk about, it gets so old!”, but Operation Snowball is different.

Snowball is not filled with school administrators drilling you about how your future will be ruined if you do something bad. Rather, Operation Snowball really is just friends hanging out.  There is some adult supervision, obviously, but they’re not constantly over your shoulder listening to everything you say. Operation Snowball is the perfect mix of both fun and serious.

My friends and I attended Operation Snowball this year. I’m a sophomore now, but this was my first year, I was too wimpy as a freshman to go last year. However, I regret not going as a freshman, and that’s a common regret of many people who skipped their first year.

When you arrive to Operation Snowball, there is a super-fun introduction to the weekend. And when I say fun, I mean it. Trust me, I would not be wasting my time writing this if I didn’t really mean it. Every year there is a different theme for Snowball. This year it was Disney, because no matter who you are, everyone loves some Disney action.

We were all put into small groups, and sure, not everyone in your small group are people that you know, but that's ok because the conversation was actually really fun, and most everyone agrees with that! Plus, it's a great opportunity to gain some new “Instagram” followers.

Small groups get together and talk before they’re hit with many activities. Some of the activities are fun and silly, like Disney trivia or “Name that Song”. But one of the activities that really stood out at Snowball this year was something called “M and P Presentations”.

Two men by the name of Matt Matkovich and Phil Januszewski are teachers from the suburbs of Chicago, but they are motivational speakers on the side. They came to MTHS and created a fun and interactive time for us to learn how to become kick-butt people.

I know what you are thinking: “Ugh, motivational speakers, just there to tell you some boring and sad story about how much they struggled in life but persevered blah, blah, blah...”. Well that’s not M and P. Matt and Phil had us playing in fun skits, dancing to music, and talking to a whole bunch of people while still being inspired by their messages.

“What are those messages”, you may ask? They call it the M and P Recipe. Topics included self-confidence, health, work ethic, good manners and dressing for success. Everyone loved M and P, they made us feel good and have fun. The attendees at Operation Snowball that I talked to hope that they come back again.

After having small group time and eating a healthy lunch of chicken nuggets and french fries, Snowballers get into a little more serious of a discussion. We had an activity called “Step Up Yo”. All of the adults leave the room for this. Snowballers get into a square circle and are asked questions. If the question applies to you, then you must step up. The questions start off fun and easy, such as “step up if you like strawberry ice cream” or “step up if you like to binge watch Netflix”, but they become more serious as the game goes on. Questions about drugs, alcohol, and other scary and relatable things come up in the conversation. The point of this is that people who are struggling can see that they are not alone. The activity is eye-opening and it makes you realize that a lot of your peers are willing to support you. Group discussions follow this and it is an opportunity for Snowballers to have a “what is said here, stays here” conversation that can help you, and help you get to know your friends.

The night ends with even more fun! There is a dance and some late-night pizza, but also a chance to walk around the hallways of the school playing hide-and-seek. Everyone has to be in their sleeping rooms by 2 a.m. See, I told you that the adults aren’t that bad.

By the last day of Snowball, everything is more like a wrap-up. The weekend usually ends with a few more silly challenges and group discussions. Finally, on Sunday, parents can come and watch a wrap-up of what their Snowball children did over the weekend. Snowball ends in nothing but hugs and smiles, making for an unforgettable weekend. 

I know MTHS isn’t the only school in the area to offer something like Snowball, and if there is a high school student out there who is on the fence about attending, I would highly recommend it. Trust me, you’ll come away feeling loved and satisfied.