Challenge Day: A Unique Environment

Jacqueline Barr

A recount of challenge day events and activities as well as personal experience

The power shuffle: a name reminiscent of a dance move but with a much more serious connotation. Two strips of blue painter’s tape set about ten feet apart on the gym floor created an emotional abyss that was crossed time and time again. Just as in the movie "Freedom Writers," participants crossed the line for issues that pertained to them. A woman’s calm voice resounded from the speakers asking participants to cross if they had experienced abuse, family problems, or religious persecution. Those who walked across turned and faced those who remained stationary on the other side; many of whom, sympathetically put up the sign language gesture for "I love you" in support.

Challenge Day, held in the gym on Oct. 30, created an atmosphere not commonly found on campus. Students discussed depression, anorexia, drugs, grief, abuse, and stereotypes all in confidentiality, and in first person.

The Emcees used the metaphor of an iceberg to represent a person.  The portion of the iceberg that can be seen above the water represents what other people see.

"Below [the water line] are our fears and our belief systems and our worries and our values," event coordinator Student Advocate Richard Prinz said.

Challenge Day asked all participants to drop their water line.

The day started off with formalities and ice breakers: introductions, stories, and conversation.

After about an hour, most students had worked out their morning jitters. The engaging running and circle games quickly transitioned into serious conversation. The room separated into smaller family groups. Time was then given to share personal experiences, all in the Las Vegas mentality: what happens on Challenge Day, remains in the room.

"People who you’d never met before became such a close part of your life because we spilled out our fears, our dreams, our hopes to them," said sophomore participant Kriti Garg.

As teachers and students alike shared their experiences, the whole atmosphere changed. Thoughts and emotions that were lodged in the back of participants’ minds began to surface. Others stories shocked participants and solicited compassion.

One of the most powerful activities of the day was the power shuffle. As students walked toward the innocuous line of tape, secrets were shared and emotions ran high. Every time the facilitator asked a question in the form of "Please cross the line if…," a group of students would make the seemingly long trek in silence to the other side.

Some students repeatedly crossed for issues such as sexism, harassment, and bullying. As the prompts continued, the tears began to fall.

"It was really cool to see all these people that were crossing the line with me or the
people who weren’t crossing the line when I wasn’t and to see how different and the same everyone is," said sophomore Michaela Miller.

Perhaps most surprising, were the sources of these personal confessions. Those who crossed the line were a mix of people with no discernible classification. They were not all Asian, Caucasian, tall, fat, smart, or dumb.

"I was shocked to see people who at school seem macho, break down and show their true colors," said Miller.

At the end of the day, many walked out emotionally drained and in awe but sensing a call to action. The words of Mahatma Ghandi became a coin phrase used repeatedly throughout Challenge Day:  "Be the change you want to see in the world."

"It was overall, an experience that everyone should have in their life," Miller said.