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YouthSpeaksOut! is an hour long public affairs show hosted by high school students in Mendocino County California. Produced by Dan Roberts.
Today our topic is Challenge Day 2014. Laytonville Healthy Start hosted Challenge Day for Laytonville High School students this week. Challenge Day is a non-profit organization that helps young people learn to connect through a day-long event that is similar to an encounter group. The Challenge Day program is approximately 6 hours long and takes place during a school day. Challenge Day Leaders begin the morning by helping teens step out of their comfort zones through music, dancing, and games.
Taking part in Challenge Day was not mandatory for the high school students. 70 students attended, and there were 35 adult facilitators consisting of teachers, counselors, and mostly community members. This ratio of one adult for every 2 students was very impressive to the leaders, and a stunning tribute to the Laytonville community and Laytonville Healthy Start.
When the teenagers begin to feel safe in a group, they are willing to be vulnerable with one another and connect as human beings. They are freed from stereotypes and labels that have been placed upon them such as preppies, hicks, hippies, and rednecks. The leaders spent a portion of the morning talking about the healthy expression of emotions, and the negative effects of keeping feelings inside. They also described how society imposes gender roles on youth- the be a man box and the woman flower. They described how most people are like icebergs in that that only reveal 10% of themselves to others- 90% is submerged.
During the afternoon, participants dive into the issue of social oppression and examine the impact oppression has on their lives and the lives of people around them. By the end of the afternoon, participants have an opportunity to take a stand against oppression, make amends for hurts
they have caused each other, and state their commitment to creating change on their campus and in their community.
Challenge Day is designed to wake people up. Day after day, young people in our schools face negative judgments, teasing, violence, loneliness and separation. The program starts with the Challenge Day Formula for Change:
Notice: Wake up to how people are treating one another;
Choose: Choose the school and life of your dreams;
Act: Take action to make your dreams a reality.
We will begin today s program by listening to a few recordings from the morning s activities.
Play 12 minute recording collage
You are listening to YouthSpeaksOut! and our topic today is Challenge Day, an event that was held this week at Laytonville High School. We will discuss more details of the day s events and the effects we noticed in ourselves and the student body in the days following Challenge Day.
Challenge Day is not intended to be a one-day fix all program- it raises awareness and plants the seeds for evolutionary change on campus. The schools are required to create a Be the Change Team and a Be the Change Team Plan in order to sustain the cultural and paradigm shifts created through Challenge Day.
At mid-morning the students were divided into groups of 4 joined by two facilitators, called the family group. In these intimate groups, students were encouraged to talk about their personal life, both positive and negative. Everyone there had agreed to confidentiality, though the facilitators are required to report if anyone is being abused, or is a danger to themselves or others. A lot of emotion was released in the room. Most people wept. Not everyone can open up in this situation, but many revealed stories that they normally keep secret. Getting it off their chest was a serious relief to many.
Many students experienced the breaking down of personal barriers and the ability to communicate openly with fellow students they have avoided for years. In the afternoon there was an exercise called Crossing the line. Everyone stood on one side of a line across the room. The facilitator would say things like Anyone who has been oppressed because of their race, gender, or body type cross the line. This group would look back at the main group who were sending their love and recognition. The group would return and the facilitator would tell another group, like those who had been raised with violence in the home, to cross the line. There were dozens of categories of people called to cross the line. This is an incredibly powerful emotional exercise.
When students realize that they their personal sense of oppression is shared by numerous other students, some of their alienation can lift. Many students found that interaction with the facilitators was inspiring, and vice versa. Near the end of the day, several students apologized to others for bullying and being mean, and said they would break their old habits.
So we will begin this program by giving more details about how Challenge Day works- the exercises, the games, the small groups, and crossing the lines. We ll describe and discuss the day and its effect on us and our school, then we ll open the phone lines for your questions and input. We are at the Willits Studio so our phone number will be 456-9991. We ll tell you when to call in about 20 minutes.
Let s start by describing what it was like coming into Harwood Hall through a passageway of cheering adult facilitators. Rowyn, how did that make you feel?
We re going to open the phone lines now. The phone number is 456-9991. Everyone is welcome to call, and we d especially like to encourage the youth, their parents, anyone involved in Challenge Day, and concerned friends in the listening audience. Please call in if you have questions or insights about Challenge Day.
Were you aware that Challenge Days were occurring in our schools? Were you involved? Would you like to be involved in the future?
Does this sound like a good way to break down barriers at a high school? If you are beyond high school, what do you remember that made you sometimes dread to going to school?
Were you oppressed in school? Were you alienated? Were you bullied? Were there many other students that you saw for years but never once spoke to? Were you trapped in the labels and stereotypes of the time?
Was anything tried at your school to start fresh and make things new? What do you think about community members working as facilitators and offering their support for students in the future?
Have you ever been in an encounter group? If so, what did you gain from the experience?
Please call in and be part of this conversation.