South Side Middle School hosted its fifth annual Challenge Day program from Nov. 25-27.
The Challenge Day program addresses issues that are common throughout most schools, including cliques, teasing, harassment, stereotypes and bullying, among other issues. Divided among the three days, more than 260 students, the entire class of eighth graders, took part in a six-and-a-half-hour energetic, emotional roller coaster.
The California-based non-profitâ€™s mission is, according to its website, to demonstrate to youth in communities across the country that love and connection is possible through a celebration of diversity and expression.
The program leaders get the students loose and comfortable early, having them move and jump around, before moving into the more serious topics.
Though some students may have been nervous to be in front of all their classmates, one of the goals of the program was to reduce the apprehension and show that each student could feel comfortable with everyone in the gym.
The program continues to get more emotional and serious as the day goes on, said Principal Shelagh McGinn, as the students break down into smaller groups and the discussion becomes more intense.
According to its website, the program presents students with a three-step formula for creating positive change: Notice what is happening; Choose a vision for what you want your life to look like; Have the courage to do something to create change.
According to McGinn, the administration and faculty try to encourage the positivity derived from Challenge Day to remain throughout the year, as the eighth graders prepare for high school.
The â€śBe the Changeâ€ť Club, available to the seventh graders as well, meets throughout the year to discuss similar topics.
From teaching a variety of different hugs to performing the wave as if at a sports game, Challenge Day keeps the students involved, interested and invested in an effort to make them appreciate their classmates and themselves.