Preparing for Challenge Day

Staff and students share their thoughts about the Jan. 31 event

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Preparing for Challenge Day

Julia Yang

On Jan. 31, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 125 students will gather in the main gym to participate in Challenge Day, where they listen to other students’ unique stories, as well as share their own. According to student advocate Richard Prinz, the goal of Challenge Day is to help end the teasing and lack of empathy present in the American school environment.

Prinz brought Challenge Day to MVHS about 10 years ago in hopes of creating a safer and more connected school environment for students. The event has been held twice per school year for the first nine years and once each school year for the past two years. According to Prinz, a maximum of 100 students can participate in the event on a first-come-first-serve basis through signing up with a form, with an additional group of 25 teen leaders who have previously attended Challenge Day. There will also be one adult supervisor for every four students. Prinz’s duties in running the event include organizing and coordinating with the participants and making sure all necessary components for the day are received.

Prinz says the event begins with icebreakers to encourage participants to get familiar with each other. Additionally, they do a “cross the line” activity, in which students get to know each other on a deeper level based on their personal experiences.

“If you know somebody or you’ve had an experience around, say somebody your family’s had a substance abuse problem, you cross the line,” Prinz said. “Or you cross the line if you know somebody who’s taken their life, cross the line if you’ve had a relative who’s died.”

Other activities include a small group exercise revolving around the phrase, “If you really knew me you would know,” where groups of four or five students, along with an adult supervisor, meet several times throughout the day and share out their thoughts and stories. Additional activities and talks revolve around messages about gender stereotypes, power and oppression.

For senior Ananya Partha, this year will be her third year participating in Challenge Day. Partha first participated in the event her sophomore year after hearing about it from her friends. She expected the event to help her get a glimpse of the non-academic and emotional side of MVHS students’ lives; Partha says it did just that.

“I realized that there’s many problems that our peers face in their personal lives that we are generally not aware of,” Partha said. “It’s influenced me to be empathetic in the way I approach people, and be understanding of everyone and their personal situations. It’s also taught me to be able to see something deeper in a person than just the image they put out.”

Partha also participated in Challenge Day her junior year as a teen leader, which allowed her to encourage others to share while also pushing herself to open up more.

“Each year I go brings me more and more out of my comfort zone, which in my opinion is a good thing and something that should be embraced,” Partha said. “I take pride in trying to be as open and honest of a person I can be and this is something that allows me to do that in a safe environment.”

Prinz believes that while students may experience and learn different things from the event, overall, it will benefit them and allow them to grow and gain more self-confidence and empathy.

“I think there’s lots of different levels [to Challenge Day],” Prinz said. “Sometimes people at the end are showing a lot of gratitude and sometimes they feel some remorse for people they might have hurt. Some go home with more appreciation for their parents.”

For senior Tiffany Lee, this is her first Challenge Day. Lee decided to sign up because she had heard many great things about the event and as she is a senior, it is her last chance to experience it with the MVHS community.

“We don’t really have many built in experiences here at MVHS where we can learn about each other beyond our classrooms and friend groups, so I think it’ll be a great experience,” Lee said. “I’m hoping that after the day I’ll better understand the people who I see on a daily basis around school.”

Partha hopes that other students who have never attended the event and still have the opportunity to do so will consider signing up in the future. She believes that even though initially it can be intimidating to open up, embracing the feeling of stepping outside one’s comfort zone can be a rewarding experience.

“The fact that you can share [as] little or as much as you want also helps participants to feel more comfortable,” Partha said. “Leaving Challenge Day, I feel refreshed and inspired to embrace experiences in my life and help others with problems they face. The experiences you face in life are the things that shape you, so in my opinion there’s no harm in being open about them if you are comfortable doing so.”