Challenge Day 2017

Challenge Day 2017

Aashna Shah

On Oct. 24, 2017, 100 students, parents and teachers gathered in the field house for a day of bonding and sharing personal experiences. Challenge Day is meant to target issues we have in society and show students that is important to be open to talk about these issues and what they have been through. Throughout the day, many tears were shed over emotional and heartbreaking stories. This was an experience many students say they will never forget.

For the 100 students, Challenge Day replaces a day of school to facilitate interactions with one another and discuss different issues they experience on a day-to-day basis, such as bullying, stress, and depression.

At the beginning of the day, facilitators worked on helping people in the room by fostering trust and consequently, comfort. They played games, did trust exercises, and had fun. Then, the day got heavier as people began to talk about issues they struggle with on a daily basis. They did numerous activities that allowed them to share their life stories and allowed others to sympathize with them.

Said founder Rich St. John-Dutra, “Challenge Day was our dream to bring that sense of feeling and belonging that [students] all want, need and deserve.”

This day was transformational for students, who thought it was an

educational but fun experience.

Said senior Simran Singh, “[Challenge Day] was a day for me to get everything off of my chest. The way that they built up being able to talk to the other people in the room just made me more comfortable to share my personal experiences and feelings. I think that if you are willing and if you have an open heart and mind, then [Challenge Day] is definitely a chance for you to do that.”

Challenge Day is targeted to bring up the main issue students face in society—loneliness.

Said co-founder Yvonne St. John-Dutra, “The biggest problems in our schools today aren’t things we are all focusing on and scared of like drugs, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, violence, truancy, even suicide. All of those things are symptoms of the biggest problems, like separation, isolation and loneliness.”

Perhaps one of the most moving activities of the day was when students were asked to cross a line when a statement applied to them.

Said Challenge Day facilitator Katie Healey, “We have everyone stand on one side of the room and we call out different categories that relate to oppression or privilege or life experiences people have. If I call out something that applies to someone, they cross over the line and turn and face the group from which they came. It is a really powerful activity, we do it entirely in silence, and this gives people an opportunity to tell their life story without having to say anything because sometimes putting words to these things can be really difficult.”

This activity brought tears to the eyes of almost everyone in the room. Hugs were shared, as was compassion.

Students were not the only ones affected and moved by Challenge Day. Parent volunteers and teachers were amazed at the activities and surprised at seeing what their children and students go through on a daily basis.

Said Biology teacher Kenji Mitchell, “It was shocking to see people cross the line and realize that they were one of my students. You feel bad about not knowing that about them because it is probably something that they struggle with.”

This activity touched many people’s hearts. It was strategically planned to allow for students to sympathize with each other and tell their stories in absolute silence.

Said Healey, “[Crossing the line] allows us to not only see what we have in common with the people around us that maybe we would have never guessed the similarities that we have, but it’s also a way to acknowledge our own experiences and allows us to see the things we are grateful for. It tends to build a lot of connection with people, to see what we have in common. […] There is acknowledgment in crossing a line for different things, about honoring the experiences that we have had but also to recognize that they didn’t stop us and to feel empowered moving forward in our lives that they have survived these things and they are that much stronger.”

However, some students found that there were things that could be done to make this day even more effective. One activity that helped students bond with each other was when they sat in small groups and talked about their life experiences and issues that they have been through.

Said Singh, “The one thing I would change is when we were [sharing some problems that we have], 2 minutes wasn’t enough time for each person, so maybe some of the other activities could’ve been a little shorter and that way we would’ve had time to build up more confidence and trust in our group to the point where we felt comfortable enough to share out about ourselves.”

People who found this experience truly transformational hoped that they would continue to hold Challenge Days, hopefully more often in the school year.

Said junior Isha Adhvaryu, “I wish [Challenge Day] was more commonly held throughout the year, like maybe twice every semester, so that more people could experience it and understand how it could help better the environment at school and everywhere you go.”