National program promotes compassion and respect in schools and communities
DELAVAN — For millions of young people, bullying, violence and other forms of oppression are a part of a typical day at school. Many students are afraid to walk down the halls for fear of being teased or humiliated. Others feel so alone and frightened that they cannot even pay attention in their classes.
Imagine a school where every child feels safe, loved, and celebrated. This is the vision behind Challenge Day, an award-winning, day-long experiential program for middle and high school students.
On April 17, 18 and 19, the acclaimed Challenge Day program will take place at Delavan-Darien High School in Delavan. Over the three sessions, approximately 300 Delavan-Darien teens from sixth through 12th grade, and more than 75 adults, will experience the innovative workshops, which are designed to break down barriers and promote school and community environments based in understanding, acceptance and love.
“Challenge Day is an opportunity to bring our students, staff and community together to address issues of bullying and authentic relationships,” Principal Mark Schmitt said. “After observing a Challenge Day at another school, I knew it was a good fit for DDHS and the school district. It’s going to change how we work and learn together.”
At a Challenge Day, teenage students, teachers, school counselors, parents, and members of the community are challenged to step out of their comfort zones, open their hearts and build connections with others. Two trained Challenge Day leaders guide participants through a carefully designed series of games, activities and trust-building exercises that break down the walls of separation and create new levels of empathy and respect.
The Challenge Day program reduces teasing and bullying, teaches tools for peaceful conflict resolution, and inspires teens and adults to work together as forces for positive change in the world.
“Challenge Day will not solve every bullying problem, but it is a step among many in creating respectful relationships,” Schmitt said.
The Delavan-Darien School District is seeking individuals and corporations to sponsor the three Challenge Day activities coming to Delavan-Darien High School. To support the effort, contact event consultant Lori Grover at 815-289-6974.
Challenge Day history
Motivated by a vision that love and connection are possible in schools, Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John created the Challenge Day program in Martinez, Calif., in 1987. Through their years of professional experience with teens and families, Rich and Yvonne recognized that teasing, bullying, and other forms of social oppression are symptoms of a greater underlying problem: separation, isolation, and loneliness. Rich and Yvonne designed the Challenge Day program to build connection and forgiveness between young people, and to inspire youth to become positive forces of change in their schools and communities.
Challenge Day was formed as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2001. Today, its programs have reached hundreds of thousands of young people across North America and around the world.
The Challenge Day program has received numerous awards from the Juvenile Justice System, the D.A.R.E. Officers Association, government officials, and many school districts and cities nationwide. Challenge Day has also been featured in the New York Times best-seller Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, in the Emmy-winning documentary Teen Files: Surviving High School, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Challenge Day founders Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John were honored as Champions of Forgiveness by the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance in 2005, and received the People Helping People Award from the New Directions Counseling Center in 2006. Rich Dutra-St. John was named as one of the top mental health professionals by the Consumers’ Research Council in 2006.
To learn more about the work of Challenge Day, or see videos examples from various Challenge Days held throughout the country, visit www.challengeday.org.