It’s a single day that can have a big impact on students.
“Learning about differences about people and how you can’t really judge people is what I got from it,” said Journey Evans, an 8th grader at Washington Township’s Northview Middle School. Evans and her peers went through Challenge Day last year and she said she still notices a difference every day.
Challenge Day is a national nonprofit program with the goal of making children feel safe, loved and celebrated. The program partnered with MTV’s show “If you Only Knew Me,” and brings activities to schools around the nation to help break down barriers between student groups.
Evans said she learned a lot from the game called “Cross the Line.”
“Basically one of the leaders said to cross the line if they’d had some situation in their life. If you didn’t cross the line you’d show a sign up [with your hands], an ‘I love you,’ and that just meant that you respect their situation and it was an awesome way to learn about people,” said Evans.
This is the third year school leaders at Washington Township have brought Challenge Day to the district’s middle schools. Experts have shown bullying peaks between 6th and 8th grade.
“They’re trying to find who they are and it can be a very traumatic time for some of them, for some of them it can be easier than for others. This is the time when they re-idintify who they are,” said Sue Spomer, School Counsellor at Northview Middle School.
She said after students participated in Challenge Dy, she noticed that they were kinder toward their peers and that they were better equipped to stand up to bullying.
According to a study done by Challenge Day at schools that have participated in the program, 68 percent saw a decrease in teasing and bullying after the program. Seventy-seven percent reported a more positive school environment.
“This starts their awareness early so they carry the skills, the empathy, the bonding with them and that helps them onto high school and therefore reduces some of the kinds of behavior or experiences that aren’t so positive in the high school years,” Spomer said.
Parents and community leaders are often invited to be part of Challenge Day. Cherrish Pryor from the Indiana House of Representatives was scheduled to be a community volunteer at Challenge Day at Eastwood Middle School Tuesday.
Learn more about Challenge Day on their website: http://challengeday.org/