Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:46PM - 280 Views

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Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

The Challenge Day workshop was presented to the students of South Webster High School on Monday and Tuesday. Challenge Day is designed to break down barriers and promote communities of understanding, acceptance and love.

According to released information about Challenge Day, “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.

“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.”

South Webster High School mathematics teacher Joshua Morris said his expectations for the day was to have people see people differently than they did before.

“We also wanted to tie the community with the students. This way when our students see an adult (that participated in the workshop) out in the community they know they can turn to them, if they are in need,” he said. “Those expectations were beyond met today. It’s going to take some follow up. We certainly want to keep the energy alive, it was an amazing day.”

Over the two days all of the high school students went through the workshop.

“There were a couple of girls that apologized to each other today, that have been fighting with each other for years,” Morris said. “To see them do that, made the day worth while.”

He said the hope is that students will take what the learned from the workshop and spread it throughout the school and community, but it’s going to take a commitment to keep the spirit going.

“The Challenge Day leaders told us, it would be easy for us to go back to the way things were. Several of us to stepped-up and say that’s not going to happen, we’re going to treat people better and we’re going to commit to that,” Morris said.

One of the activities the adults and students participated in is called, Cross the Line.

According to The Freed Child Project (freechild.org), “Crossing the line, is a powerful, interactive and effective activity that builds diversity, awareness with a group. The goals of this activity include helping participants learn about themselves; give participants an opportunity to reflect upon their self and cultural identity; allowing the community involved to appreciate its own diversity and learn to treat each other like the diverse human being we all are.”

Morris said Cross the Line was his favorite activity of the day.

“I’ve seen the activity before, but I did not think it was going to be so powerful. It definitely pulled on the heart strings. To see all of the students come together that I did not know associated with each other, give each other hugs and give support to people that normally walk around guarded, was amazing.”

The day was also organized by representatives from the Portsmouth City Health Department and the Drug Free Communities Grant, and the Garrett Maloney Foundation. For more information about Challenge Day, visit challengeday.org

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.

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