Imagine a world where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated. Where bullying, violence and other forms of oppression are things of the past. This is the work of Challenge Day.
Who are we to judge one another for being who we are? Thunder Mountain High School started the 2010 school year by asking this question. For three days, over 250 students, 75 adult volunteers and 2 facilitators participated in the Challenge Day program. The day started off with games to help break the ice. Then participants broke off into small "families" designed to encourage students and adults to share their feelings and experiences. Many students came forward and talked about physical and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction in themselves or family members, suicidal thoughts and attempts, homelessness, illness, divorce and many other issues that the youth of our community live with each day. Many participants felt the most poignant event of the day was a "cross the line" exercise. Done in complete silence, a facilitator called out categories addressing various forms of oppression such as: bullying, homophobia, abuse, racism and isolation. If a participant had been the victim of the category, they would cross the line and face their peers. For many this was an eye opening experience because they had been bullied, teased or hurt by other students in the room. It also gave students the opportunity to see that you don't always know what's happening in someone else's life and shouldn't be so quick to judge.
Challenge Day focuses on showing the participants that we are all equal and deserve equal respect and consideration. To recognize the power of your words and actions; to choose to be the change you wish to see in yourself, your school and the world; your feelings are not insignificant and deserve to be expressed and you deserve to be received with love. The students left Challenge Day excited to see a change in their school and to continue the Challenge Day philosophy.
A month later, we went back to Thunder Mountain High School to see if the Challenge Day enthusiasm continued and if there was a change. Many students said that they see less bullying and are calling each other out when they do see it. Students are more comfortable coming to school, with themselves, and have more open relationships with their parents and peers. Some students continue to check in with other members of their small group to see how they're doing and most are sharing smiles, hello's and hugs in the hall with people they hadn't previously associated with. Challenge Day continues to affect the students and staff of Thunder Mountain High School.
This experience was a single event within the community of Juneau funded by a grant through the Alaska Association of School Boards, the Behavioral Health Board and the Juneau School District. It is the desire of Thunder Mountain High School students, staff and parents to continue to "Be The Change" within their school and within our community by implementing a year-round "Be The Change Club" and by bringing Challenge Day to all three high schools annually. Just imagine the affect this could have on the future of our community and our youth.
Juneau-Douglas High School and Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School have also received the support of the Superintendent Gelbrich, the Juneau School Board and other community members to bring Challenge Day to their schools this year. All three High Schools want to implement this philosophy as part of the "Being the Change" in our Community.
It is our goal to set up a sponsorship program so that all three high schools are joined in their efforts to make this an annual event. We are looking for sponsorship donations that will be specific to this cause. Help us "Be The Change" in our community by donating money, mileage tickets, vehicles and lodging for our traveling facilitators, supplies, lunch sponsorship, ongoing facilitators for the community support program, or your time so we can keep Challenge Day alive. If you are interested in donating or becoming a sponsor to these events, please contact us for additional information. Thank you for supporting our community's youth in this incredible event. To learn more about Challenge Day, visit www.challengeday.org.