Valley High School Students Experience the Challenge of a Lifetime
For many students, Valentine’s Day was an entrée into the four-day Presidents Day long weekend. At Valley High School, Valentine’s Day was radically different and one that would impact many of them for many days to come. After months of meticulous planning and fundraising, the vast majority of VHS students experienced a day that would test the bounds of their intellectual and emotional boundaries – all in view of their classmates and strangers, alike. Last Thursday was the presentation of Challenge Day. This all-day assembly represented an experiential workshop that demonstrated the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth and full expression.
The Challenge Day organization is based in Concord, CA and provides programs for middle and high schools throughout the continental United States and Canada. Their mantra is “Be the Change” as they work towards fostering a culture of acceptance and service to respective campuses. Students at Valley High School are enrolled for a myriad of reasons. As it is the continuation school for the Dublin Unified School District, Valley High exists as an option for students who need may an alternative to the program provided at Dublin High School.
It is difficult to articulate what occurred during these 6-1/2 hours and what it meant to those that participated. Media was allowed access at both the front and back ends of the event. OneDublin.org was fortunate to receive an invitation to attend by VHS Counselor, Liz Buckley.
The Challenge Day event was not a surprise to the students. They were notified well in advance. However, what could not possibly be explained was what they might be exposed to and how they might respond to some of the workshops. Before all of this could occur, Ms. Buckley approached community sponsors to make this happen. A generous donation was received from the Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE). Further, a successful grant was funded by ValleyCare Health System. Additionally, about a dozen and a half adult volunteers were secured in order to facilitate this event.
The program started at 8:30 AM. All students funneled into Stager Gym with raucous music playing in the background. The participants seated themselves in a semi-circle. Challenge Day Leaders Schan Baker and Berenice Meza provided an introduction into what was ahead for this group. What followed was a full day of small and large group exercises which “challenged” all of the participants to question their own biases, beliefs and assumptions. The presumptive goal was to tear down what one may think about themselves and others. To not adhere to long held assumptions and to reach out to others, when you may not have considered it before.
In the afternoon session, Leader Schan asked all participants to “Cross the Line”. In other words, acknowledge the decisions that everyone has made in their lives – right or wrong – but know that you’re not the only one that has done so. When one has the crossed the line, there is an army of others in that room that have done the same. You are not alone and you’re not the only one that has had a similar experience. It resembled a revival meeting as all participants were cheering and were on their feet.
We sought out feedback from Valley High School Principal Rinda Bartley to help us understand the importance and impact of Challenge Day.
OneDublin.org: As a site administrator, why is it important to host an event such as this?
Rinda Bartley: “At Valley, we are so aware that a student’s success in school requires a fluid interplay between the mind, the heart and the body. Therefore, academic success depends upon a sound academic program and high quality social, emotion and behavioral support. What Challenge Day does so powerfully is to give students and adults a way to see that those differences do not need to be barriers between people and in fact we are not so different from each other. Participants are challenged to imagine a school culture which truly values and supports each individual.”
OneDublin.org: Why has VHS elected to employ Challenge Day as a specific vendor to conduct this enterprise?
Bartley: “The Challenge Day organization has a long and rich history of running programs in schools, and is nationally and internationally recognized for excellence. They know how to do this work. Liz and I have had very positive experiences with them in the past.”
OneDublin.org: What feedback can you share from the student’s experience?
Bartley: “Students were very articulate about the new insights that they gained about the need for them to support each other, and to recognize artificial barriers for what they are. Students talked about their intentions to do things differently and to stand up for the right things. They will not allow bullying or abuse of any kind and will have the courage to speak up when they see it.”
In the last hour, all participants were asked to fill out a note card to a loved one – whether alive today or to one that has left us. Leader Schan asked “Tell the one that is closest to you why you love them. Apologize if you have let them down in the past. Why do we have to wait for their funeral to say what we feel? Tell this person every reason how they have changed your life for the better.” In this brief moment, we observed laughter, contemplation and tears. For the students, staff and volunteers at Valley High, this was a Valentine’s Day like no other. OneDublin.org would like to thank Valley High School, Dublin Unified School District and community partners for making this a very memorable day.
For more information go to: http://www.challengeday.org/