Challenge Day returned to the Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS) from October 29 to 31, as students and staff learned how they can “Be the Change” and make a difference at school and in the community.
Grade 9 students heard Challenge Day's message on October 29 and 30. Some of the school's Grade 11 and 12 students had their turn on October 31. Facilitators Randy Fortes and Gina Parnini travelled from California to Estevan to lead the sessions each day.
ECS teacher Moira Grayson was pleased with how the Challenge Day leaders connected with the youth, and the youth's reaction to the message.
“It's always very interesting watching how the kids are pretty hesitant at first, and they're not really sure … what it's going to be all about, and they might be a little worried,” said Grayson. “As the day progresses, they just seem to get more relaxed, and start joining more and more into things.”
Ice-breaking activities and games in the morning allowed participants to get to know each other and to have some fun. The more poignant moments occurred in the afternoon, as students and adults discussed who they are, the events that have shaped their lives and why they attended Challenge Day.
Young people and adult volunteers were divided into groups of five or six, which allowed for more in-depth interaction, and opportunities to discuss the ideas that were presented.
Many of the students and the adults discussed what it was like to be bullied, and they received a lot of support from others in the room.
“Many kids were saying 'I'm not going to put up with bullying anymore. I will stop it when I see it, I will not do it myself, and I will try to catch myself if I start to harm people in that way,'” said Grayson. “Again, they got support from the whole room.”
Some students apologized to those that they have wronged, Grayson said. The apologies were accepted.
Challenge Day allows young people to see that the wider community does care about them, Grayson said, and that many people are willing to listen and help if they need assistance.
The youth also found out that there were a lot of shared experiences, Fortes said.
“When you give the students permission and the opportunity to share within a group setting, and make it safe, magic happens,” said Fortes.
He hopes that the students will take the initiative and realize they have the power to create change in their school and in their lives.
“It's all about empowering them, and giving them permission to step into that power, because often times they might be aware of it, but they might be at a place where 'It's not my place, it's not my place to speak on this,' when, really, it's speak from your heart, speak what's real, own your truth and be you,” said Fortes.
The topics and the situations of a Challenge Day often differ, Fortes said, but the results are usually the same. Students will thank those who have had a positive impact in their lives, or they will apologize to those they have hurt.
This was the second time that Fortes has been in Estevan. He was one of the Challenge Day leaders during a visit to ECS in March, when students who were in Grade 9 at the time heard the Challenge Day message.
Grayson noted that since the first Challenge Day, students have started to see things differently, have gained a greater appreciation for themselves and others, and have learned how their conduct can affect others.
After they were finished with the three days in Estevan, Fortes and Pernini travelled to Lampman, where they led a Challenge Day at Lampman School on November 1.