Two Hilltops

CCCThis has been a seminal year for ESCAPE (new window), a campus retreat program dedicated to first-year students and one of the largest and longest-running retreat programs on campus. It is the inaugural year of the Calcagnini Contemplative Center (new window) — a brand-new retreat center nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and overlooking the Shenandoah River Valley, probably exactly what John Denver imagined while singing “Country Roads.” Gifted to us by the enormous generosity of Arthur and Nancy Calcagnini, the CCC nearly doubles Georgetown’s acreage property. But it has become so much more than merely an additional plot of land and buildings — it has become a second home, a second Hilltop, for Georgetown’s students.

While the CCC changes the vibe of ESCAPE toward a more “outdoorsy” – feeling retreat, it also gives the program the space it needs and deserves to shepherd our new students. As Fr. O’Brien once remarked, with each new story shared and bond formed at the CCC, it becomes holier and more sacred ground — a true home and sanctuary to which all may retreat in search of peace and quiet. As we conclude the ESCAPE overnights for this academic year — and as seniors, we conclude our time with Georgetown and ESCAPE in general — we look back with bittersweet fondness at all the moments and memories we have created with the program. ESCAPE has impacted us as much as it has impacted the first-year students, perhaps even more; it has been the most formative part of our journey through Georgetown, and the lessons, insights, and bonds it has given us will remain with us forever.

In our last year, we are deeply grateful for the gift of another Hilltop and the opportunity to have helped “sown the seeds” for future years of ESCAPE at the CCC. Home is where the heart is, and home is where people are thinking about you — ESCAPE and the CCC have certainly become second homes for us, and we hope that future generations of Hoyas are able to find such a cozy and warm home as we have here. As we prepare to graduate and leave both Hilltops, we reflect on all the memories formed during our time at Georgetown and with ESCAPE. When we look out over the Shenandoah River Valley and walk through the Front Gates of Georgetown one last time, we will say goodbye to a home but hello to a new chapter in life.

ESCAPE Student Coordinators
Catherine Johnson (new window), SFS ’14
Sean Huang (new window), SFS ’14