The Challenge of Challenge Day
Gina Cusing '16
Many of SI’s current sophomores remember Challenge Day from their freshmen year as a day filled with emotional stories, abundant tears, and eye-opening activities. Ultimately, Challenge Day intended to bring the freshman class closer together and allow them to connect with people they would not normally talk to as well as their own personal identities. Energetic Challenge Day staff led students in fun games alongside more serious activities in an effort to "recognize stereotypes and labels," "tear down the walls of separation," and "help shift dangerous peer pressure to positive peer support," ac- cording to the organization's website, www. challengeday.org.
However, not everyone felt like they achieved these goals as a result of their experience at Challenge Day. Lizzie Ford '16 explained, "I felt pressured to share personal stuff with a group of people I barely knew." Lizzie's opinion rings true with many other students, especially those who were not in a group with their friends. Group leaders (mainly SI faculty members) encouraged students to share personal stories within a small group. Many of these topics were things that students were not comfortable enough to share with even their closest friends, so opening up to people they were unfamiliar with was, for some, uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Even if some students felt that Challenge Day achieved its goals, the lasting effects of its achievements is also question-able. Megan Gamino ’16 recalls enjoying her Challenge Day experience but says that “it seems like the next day none of it had ever had ever happened and the community was just back where it started." Does Challenge Day really accomplish its goal if students "tear down the walls of separation," only to build them back up the following day? The lack of lasting changes in our community makes all the activities, sharing, and awakening experiences seem worthless unless participants succeed in breaking stereotypes and promoting long- lasting unity, as the program encourages.
Perhaps the program would have been more effective and influential if students in- volved were more familiar with their peers, had more opportunities to witness the is- sues Challenge Day targeted, and possessed more experience with the school community in general (i.e., not freshmen). A better familiarity with fellow students and a better understanding of the school's community would help Challenge Day participants feel more inclined to share stories within a small group, take the activities seriously, get in touch with their identities, and actually make lasting connections with the people they share this experience with.
The Challenge Day organization encourages its participants to "be the change they wish to see in the world." However, unless participants carry out this pledge at SI and in their day to day lives, they may struggle to build a community that practices acceptance, respect, and zero tolerance for bullying.
Choose groups to clone to: