Challenge Day brings students closer together

March 23, 2009 — by Amalie MacGowan
challenge

Students exchanged personal stories and participated in activities that broke down stereotypes and cliques.

More than 80 students entered the gym on March 17, to loud cheering and high-fives by a crowd of teachers and faculty.

However, Challenge Day preparations began long before that. The planning began with seniors Mara Couch, Sanketh Katta and juniors Cindy Chang and Ameeka Shenoy. With collaboration from assistant principal Karen Hyde, countless hours were spent raising the $3,200 needed and filling out a web application for the Challenge Day Organization.

Once they received the set date, students, facilitators and the PTSO worked together to create a day during which students had the opportunity to look under the surface of the relationship with their peers.

“The purpose of Challenge Day was to help chip away at the walls we build between ourselves,” said Couch. “Just like any other high school, Saratoga has its own unique set of stereotypes and cliques. Challenge Day was an attempt to flip ‘what you think’ and ‘what you know.’”

Some students were selected to make a diverse group, while others volunteered.

The day started with activities that included volleyball with a giant beach ball and dancing with unfamiliar people in order for everyone to become more acquainted with one another.

After a lunch period, things became slightly more serious. Students were separated into groups of six with an adult facilitator and spent time talking about personal challenges and hidden qualities about themselves.

Although students were at first were timid and unexcited with the idea, it progressed into a memorable experience.

“We did an activity where we had to cross a line, every time there would be a certain category,” said junior Ally Doles. “It ended up being one of the most powerful moments of my life, looking at who would cross the line, or if I would.”

Each category involved teasing, family issues or personal problems. It became extremely emotional for some students, witnessing the different people who crossed, and recalling their own problems.

“With so much pressure stemming from different areas to ‘fit in,’ it was really refreshing to be given the chance to be exactly who I was for a day,” said Couch. “I got to dance around Ally Doles like a goof ball. I got to cry about how much I miss my grandmother. People I’ve never spoken to before gave me bear hugs. You’d be surprised to see what happens when people finally start ‘getting real.’”

After the “cross-the-line” activity, people were able to share their experiences to the entire crowd. Whether it was apologies, gratitude or a personal anecdote, everyone learned from the experience.

“You probably won’t see all 80 of us singing Kumbaya together in the quad on a regular basis,” jokes Couch, “but I think the day granted us an opportunity to view each other’s strengths and weaknesses in an open and supportive environment. That in itself is pretty incredible. I left school with a new point of view and sincerely hope that other students share my sentiment.”

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