by Gillian McGoldrick, sophomore, Neshaminy High School
Ever walk into a room with everyone cheering for you, celebrating you for being you? This is how Challenge Day on February 21st began at Neshaminy High School.
Many knew that their day ahead would be life-changing. It began uncomfortably with silly games that involved strangers dancing with each other, or telling a random person who your hero was.
Leaders Jen Wilson and Schan Baker kept repeating the phrase, “You can’t get through the day without at least three hugs.” So as you could assume, there was also a ton of hugging – especially many hugs with strangers.
Many students had misconceptions going into Challenge Day.
Sophomore and first-time participant, Tori Cancel, explains her different expectations for the emotional day she had: “Going into Challenge Day, I thought I wasn’t going to open up to anybody. I didn’t think I would react how I did,” Cancel said. “By the end of the day, I felt so much closer to every single person in the room even if I hadn’t talked to them. I felt like we all had a connection in some way.”
Students were put into groups of six. Everyone was close (with a box of tissues in the middle of course) and began to tell the people in our group that, “If you really knew me, you would know…”
Students shared their stories and made me thankful for those around me and the support I have. They not only made me appreciate how my life is, but also opened my eyes that every person I see is also setting up a front of so-called “happiness.”
All students were put on one side of the gym and when Wilson read a sentence, if it were true to them and their family, they were to cross the line and face the other participants. With many people crossing under categories I would never have expected, I was shocked.
I also shocked myself on how many things I actually did cross for, not even realizing some of them were such big problems. Many other participants noticed this, too.
After other activities Wilson and Baker began empowering us to “Be The Change.” They spoke of the three steps to actually changing something “Notice, Choose, Act.” These steps are run internationally with the Challenge Day program, helping schools make big changes that were once ignored.
Now that it has been over a full month since Challenge Day, where does Neshaminy stand? We definitely see the new connections in Neshaminy and get a lot of feedback from students.
Many students come back the very next day and sign right up for next year to be a leader.
For Neshaminy to be able to really change and bring the Challenge Day values to everyone, more students need to be involved. More students should get the opportunity before they graduate to participate in something as empowering as Challenge Day.
For more information about Challenge Day, visit http://challengeday.org/.