Taking the Challenge

Frank Vereline, Staff Writer

Before starting school this year, I had never heard of the event known as “Challenge Day.” The program started 30 years ago, as a way to promote positive behavior among students, and quickly spread like wildfire across the nation. Today, “Challenge Day” is a worldwide event that takes places in schools all over the globe. I first heard that “Challenge Day” would be making a stop at our school and I, like many of my fellow classmates, looked at the sheet we were given and made the assumption that it was just another one of those anti-bullying school assemblies. For the next couple of weeks, I let the permission slip rot in my backpack, until I found out some teachers were offering extra credit to students who signed up. That, mixed with the fact that I got a day out of school, was enough to get me to sign up.

I arrived to school on Monday, like every other day, and signed in at the gym. After waiting around for about an hour, the gym doors were flung open and we were greeted by a wall of teachers cheering for us, something akin to when cheerleaders yell for the athletes storming the field. I took my seat, along with my peers, in a large circle and met the group leaders, Pam and Chris. From there, we were steadily introduced to new games and activities, including a sit and talk session with someone random in the room and some weird version of volleyball that is played sitting on the floor. Around the midpoint of the day, we were separated into small “family” groups consisting of five people, three students and two teachers. These “family” groups acted as outlets for us to talk about problems in our lives. To me, this all seemed like standard, school event type things, but there was one last surprise saved for the final forty minutes. It began with two lines of tape placed a few feet apart on the floor. We were then instructed to all move to one side of the line, and from there we were asked a series of questions that ranged from simple “all students cross the line” type questions to more serious questions that brought up topics like racism and the loss of loved ones. As the activity progressed, the room became more and more emotional and many of the participants, students and teachers alike, began to cry. Although the activity didn’t move me to tears, I still felt its powerful message. While some attendees felt it was “trying to pry into other people’s lives,” as sophomore Robert Reinecker stated, it was exactly this sharing of personal experiences that made this day so special.

For some students, like Makenna Parsi, the day “made me look at people differently and appreciate what I have,” but for me the changes were more subtle. I left the gym that day feeling like I did before I entered, but when I arrived to school the next day, I began to notice how happy some of the other students who attended looked. From there I realized how powerful “Challenge Day” really was, and how it allowed me to see the lives of others. It’s school events like this that help to bring all of us together, and I hope “Challenge Day” decides to come back to Farmingdale some day soon.