Illustration by Karina Takayama
Written by Zoe Schinko and Callista Mille
This year’s Challenge Day took place the week of January 6, where freshmen at M-A participated in a series of activities meant to impact students through compassion and promote the experience of belonging. Challenge Day is a tradition for M-A, who has hosted the event for the freshman class since 2004.
Challenge Day provides an eye opening experience that allows students to gain a better understanding of their peers. It’s safe environment allows students to feel supported when sharing their personal experiences. “A lot of my friends who don’t usually open up opened up to each other, and now I know a lot of them better,” one freshman said.
Freshman Max Bragg echoed this, describing how “everyone was really honest there and all paid attention to you.”
Relationships among students were also strengthened after Challenge Day. One freshman described the new found empathy students had for each other after the event. “I learned a lot about my fellow classmates, and I got respect from some of them who I didn’t really know.”
Students and parent volunteers said their favorite activity was “Cross The Line,” where students have to walk to the other side of the room once a question applies to them. After the activity one student stated, “I felt fortunate because I feel like I did not endure as many hardships as other people did.”
The Challenge Day Program was originally created by Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, whose mission was to prevent emotional trauma and isolation among young people. Since then challenge day has spread from its origin in California to ten countries and 48 states. Approximately 1.5 million people are affected by the program every year.
Sarah Isner, a parent volunteer, described how “Cross The Line” promoted more empathy between freshmen and gave them a chance to be heard. “Physically crossing a line without having to actually say something that may be uncomfortable is a visual reminder that everyone is going through something,” said Isner. Other activities include music and games meant to prevent bullying issues such as bullying, stereotypes, and labels. Small “family groups” are also an important part of Challenge Day, which allows students to get into small groups to share experiences and connect with their fellow peers.
Isner also gave us insight into how this was a life-changing experience not only for highschoolers but for parents as well. She feels like she ends the day with “a lot more empathy for my kids.” Isner adds, “The parents get as much or more out of it as the kids, as we’re reminded of all the things [students] are dealing with.”