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Dublin High School FMP Mentors Experience the “Be the Change Movement”

March 24, 2016

DSC_0692DUBLIN, CA–One of the more noticeable changes at the Dublin High School Campus in 2015-16 is the fully-fledged Freshman Mentoring Program or FMP. This process occurs within the school day and is imbedded within the primary lunch period.Between Monday and Thursday, scores of DHS junior and senior students commit a portion of their lunch period to provide support and guidance to incoming freshmen. This mentorship can take the form of simply an opportunity to speak to older student through fostering a relationship that may help the younger student navigate the high school experience. While the program experiences continued refinement, the newest members of DHS appear to be receiving a benefit from their peers.

But, what about these mentors and what types of training have they received? A spectacular example of this training occurred on Wednesday at the Stager Gym – adjacent to the Valley High School campus. has been fortunate to chronicle the ongoing program of “Challenge Day” over past several years at VHS. Created close to 30 years ago by Yvonne & Rich Dutra-St. John, this endeavor exists to serve middle and high school campuses. Its primary purpose is to reduce bullying, teasing and stereotyping. Their all-day events are conducted at school campus across the county and around the world.


So, who better to benefit from the lessons of Challenge Day than the upperclassmen students that are influencing our newest members of DHS? Prior to 7:30 AM, many of the FMP mentors were on hand at Stager to assist in setting the gym up and to ensure that a supplementary room would be prepared for a lunch to be served later in the day. Close to 30 adult volunteers convened to receive a training session. This group was constituted mostly by teachers, some parents and even the City of Dublin Mayor David Haubert. The day’s events were in the steady hands of facilitators Caitlin Glasgo and Christopher Foster. We were told that this would be a very rigorous day and at times, a very emotional one. And, they were right.

DSC_0699Shortly after 8:00 AM, approximately 70 DHS mentors enthusiastically filed into the gym while running under a human “tunnel” before finding their seats. It was effectively explained that beyond the specific goals listed earlier, the day would only succeed if it included the construction of a “safe environment” for all involved. It would be a sanctuary for truth, honesty and trust. What followed were a series of exercises that promoted mingling amongst the 100 participants and games that about guaranteed that every person in the room would either shake hands or share a hug. This technique was highly effective and it set the stage for what would be a potentially emotional afternoon.

Once the feeling of trust could be established throughout the entire gym, it made sense to then break into much smaller groups. These subsets were intimate – no more than 5-6 members with at least two adult supporters. In this more private group, we launched into “If you really knew me, then you would know…” As the subject would imply, it’s difficult to understand everything about a person – unless they were willing to share what may be most important to them. There were no specific directions and no parameters provided. No subject was off limits. Through their own experience, Caitlin and Christopher distributed boxes of tissues for all 14 groups that were gathered in their own tight circles. Over the next several minutes, each member quietly shared their most private story in the comfort of their circle. Not long after this exercise started, one could hear sniffles or sobbing throughout the environment. The facilitators also served as timekeepers. At the conclusion of each story, each group was allowed to stand and hug. This process continued until each and everyone present was allowed to share their own story.

The entire assembly remained on-site and convened for a quick “make your own sandwich” meal and then the process resumed. Two primary experiences followed. All participants were given the opportunity to complete a personal note card to someone that they may have lost in life. This was the chance to perhaps say the words to a loved one that may not occurred when they were alive. In the “home group” setting, participants were allowed to the share the contents of their card. And while not mandatory, some elected to address the entire assembly.

DSC_0708Perhaps the most powerful event of the day was to experience “Cross the Line.” While the entire group was in close quarters, they were asked a series of personal and highly charged questions. They reached a range that traversed whether they had ever been bullied, or if they ever considered suicide, perhaps if they had considered themselves a failure or whether they had ever lost a loved one. In each circumstance, the group in the affirmative would cross the blue tape line and face the remainder of the group. In response, the other side would offer the Universal Sign Language hand sign for “I Love You.” Again, the room affirmed a safe environment and it was perfectly fine to be honest – even if it hurt inside.

We’re not sure if we could adequately articulate what occurred in Stager Gym on Wednesday. But what we do know is that about 100 lives – some young and some older came together and had the best experience of this year. would like to acknowledge the office of Alameda County Board of Supervisors Scott Haggerty and the Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE) for their generous financial contributions that ensured the conduct of Challenge Day for our student leaders at Dublin High School. And we also acknowledge the organizational leadership of Asst. Principal Maureen Byrne. Be the change!

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  1. Kelly Beck permalink
    March 24, 2016 11:01 am

    Great write up,Michael! It was such an honor to be a part of this day!

    • Jennifer Angel-Diaz permalink
      March 24, 2016 11:54 am

      Michael, thank you being part of the day and for capturing, as well as words can, our experience yesterday! We have continued the ideals of “being the change” today, by handing out treats to “pay it forward” to students who did not attend. DHS is experiencing the warm hug that Challenge Day promotes!

      • Michael Utsumi permalink
        March 24, 2016 5:24 pm

        Thank you, Jennifer. As a participant, it was a much more difficult subject to write about. So glad to hear that the treats are creating greater concentric circles for the entire campus!

    • Michael Utsumi permalink
      March 24, 2016 5:19 pm

      Thank you, Kelly. I felt equally honored to share this experience with so many.

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