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Students, adults embrace Reynolds' Challenge Day


The training will continue each year for juniors

When David Hopper arrived as a counselor at Reynolds High School last fall, he wanted to help introduce programs that had transformed his previous high school.

Along with ASPIRE, a statewide mentorship program, Hopper helped bring Challenge Day, an interactive training featured on “Oprah” and MTV, to the school.

Over three days last week, about 360 Reynolds students and 120 adults — teachers, staff and community members — attended the daylong Challenge Day, with many saying they felt moved by the experience.

“We’ve been previously depicted as maybe not the most together school in the news,” said Tanner Byer, a senior and student body president. “I thought this was a great chance for us to catalyze a change in our school and bring everyone together. Through the years, the training will eventually filter through every class. I’m very excited to see what it does for our school.”

The premise of Challenge Day is for each child to feel safe, loved and celebrated within his or her school by tackling challenging conversations and letting down barriers during a day of activities, games and small group time.

Following the training, participants take part in community service projects and teach the lessons from Challenge Day to middle and elementary school students.

“Once you go through this, you understand what fellow students have been through,” student Christina Sanchez said, referring to an activity called “cross the line” in which participants step forward in a circle when they identify with a statement.

“It’s powerful to see the things you have in common,” she said. “You won’t be quick to judge because you’ll know what they’re going through.”

Hannah Thompson, also a student, called the training life changing and said it made her respect her fellow classmates on a deeper level.

Adult participants also were moved by the training, saying they’d like to bring the training to their places of work.

“I felt like I got as much benefit as the kids,” said Flo Stephen, a community member. “To see the emotions, the tears, the hugs — wow! I’m 62 and I’ve never seen that before. There are so many people who could be better adults if they were exposed to something like that.”

Reynolds Superintendent Linda Florence also attended.

“What a rich program,” Florence said. “This is really needed if you’re going to have a true change in climate. In a school, in a district, this is the level you need to start at. It’s really about how we treat each other and understanding that there is a lot more to people than what we see on the outside.”

Challenge Day, March 18-20, coincided with Reynolds’ Fusion Month, an effort that raises awareness about diversity within the school and attempts to unify students. Reynolds’ event was led by Challenge Day facilitators Jon Gordon and Christina “Migs” Miglino.

“If any school is feeling a big schism between students, this is an activity that can change the course of a school and students,” Byer said. “It’s a confidence boosting activity. You feel vulnerable, but you realize people are there for you and made you feel not alone. Adults go through the same problems we go through.”

Hopper said the Challenge Day training would take place again in the fall and continue year after year.

“It was out of this world,” Hopper said of the first Challenge Day. “I would probably say that there are a lot of changed hearts.”

For more information, visit challengeday.org.