Grade 9 students from the Estevan Comprehensive School heard messages about empathy and compassion on October 28 and 29, as the Challenge Day program returned to the school.
Challenge Day leaders Chris Heinze and Angela Aguilar guided students and volunteer adult leaders through small and large group sessions that encouraged participants to embrace the Challenge Day theme of "Be the Change."
For Heinze, Estevan marked the first time he has been a leader; he had spent the last four months in training.
“It was great,” said Heinze. “For these students, it was so wonderful to see them open up and to be able to share, and to be able to connect with the adults and the other students in their school.”
During his training sessions, Heinze had to imagine the students' experiences during Challenge Day, so he said it was touching to witness what actually happened during a Challenge Day.
Heinze compares it to a roller coaster. It starts with a lot of energy through games, activities and upbeat interaction in small groups. Then they embarked into some more serious, confidential conversations.
The event finishes on a high, he said.
“We do that because it creates the safe space that we have to share the stuff that we do,” said Heinze.
Students in most schools often believe that they feel alone, and that they don't have anyone else to turn to, Heinze said. But they find someone else in their school has gone through a similar experience.
Heinze said he hopes that the students realize they are powerful, and they have the ability to change something about their lives, and the lives of people in other communities.
“You walk into a room, and you have all kinds of different people – people who feel alone, or (who feel) that they have to be popular, and sometimes people are just afraid of large crowds,” said Heinze. “It's cool to see those students transformed, and to be taken outside of their comfort zone.”
Henize joined Challenge Day four years after watching the MTV show “If you Really Knew Me,” which is based on the Challenge Day program. He said he was really touched by the stories and the changes in the profiled schools.
He believes that his high school experience would have been better if Challenge Day would have come to his school.
Estevan students weren't the only ones in the southeast to hear the "Be the Change" message; Challenge Day leaders were in Arcola on October 30 to speak to students at that school.