Division Avenue High School held its first Challenge Day for sophomores on Oct. 29 and 30. One hundred and ten sophomores and 26 staff members participated. The day-long workshop engaged all participants in various interactive activities that promote greater school connectedness, empathy, and inclusivity.
The day was led by two energetic, trained facilitators. Having bonded in small groups ranging from 4-5 students and 1-2 staff members in each, and in large groups, students heard, validated, and respected each other's experiences with the end goal of building empathy and inspiring a school-wide movement of compassion and positive change.
Issues that were shared and discussed were deep and personal and included things like rumors, harassment, isolation, intolerance, racism, and bullying. There were a lot of happy moments as well as sad moments during these workshops as students reflected on their own lives and empathized with others.
At the end of the workshop, students wrote notes to someone that had a positive impact on them. One student reported, "I loved this today so much…we were united as one and truly accepted each other." Another reported, "This was eye-opening. People I do not talk to or know have stories that are so deep and similar to mine." And finally one said, "This makes me want to rekindle past friendships."
More than 20 staff members volunteered to be a part of a Challenge Day committee to keep this energy going and challenge the entire student body to embrace each other and create a long lasting community of empathy, tolerance, and compassion.