Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Work of Challenge Day begins now

Glass jar with label: "Your change can Be the Change."
"Be the Change" jar
at the Record-Bee
The "Be the Change" donation jar for Challenge Day at Clear Lake High School was on the table next to my desk on Monday morning, its cloth cover partially torn off the jar's opening. My co-worker Greg DeBoth gave the sad news to me when I passed him in the parking lot: someone had stolen the money out of the "Be the Change" jar; he'd found the jar outside next to the dumpster.

I felt deeply disappointed in whoever stole this money. It wasn't just a collection of bills and pocket change; this money was supposed to help "Be the Change"  for Challenge Day. As someone who'd endured bullying and rejection throughout my time at school, it was vitally important to me that students at Lake County schools enjoy a climate of acceptance that was denied to me.

Fortunately, whatever money we'd collected in our jar was only a small part of community support for bringing Challenge Day to CLHS. As its coordinator, June Wilson, detailed in a thank-you letter to the newspaper, donation jars were also set out at Natures Foods, Band Box and Catfish Books in Lakeport.

Students, parents and community supporters assisted with various fundraisers, including a bake sale, car wash, raffle drawings and other activities. The Lakeport Enhanced Education Foundation, Booster Club, Sober Grad and the Unitarian Universalist Community of Lake County all contributed financially.

The Golden Pear Wellness Spa donated raffle items and the Forbestown Inn gave a 50-percent discount to the Challenge Day presenters, Jyoti Subramanian and Jake Cahill.

The donations' loss, while disappointing, could not halt the momentum of support for bringing Challenge Day to Clear Lake High School.

Subramanian and Cahill presented Challenge Day programs on Monday and Tuesday at Clear Lake High School, then presented two more programs on Wednesday and Thursday at Lower Lake High School.

I was among the adult volunteers Wednesday during Challenge Day at Lower Lake High School. Our first instructions as Challenge Day volunteers were to forget everything we knew about Challenge Day. Cahill told us that every Challenge Day is organic; that what the students want to talk about will shape each Challenge Day.

Each of us was encouraged to step outside our comfort zone and, for me, this included sensory challenges: bright fluorescent lights, many people in close proximity, loud music and people's shrieks.

The experience of Challenge Day was very rewarding for me. "Crossing the line" illustrated the similarities among people who may have appeared to be in very different circumstances. Subramanian recited various experiences and then invited people to cross the line if this applied to them. Adult volunteers and students alike took part in this and all activities. No one is an observer at Challenge Day.

Challenge Day uses an "iceberg" metaphor, where only 10 percent of what a person is, is visible on the surface. "Crossing the line" helps illustrate some of what lies beneath a person's surface. The "Challenge Day norms" encourage people to "Drop the waterline and get real."

Wilson told me that Challenge Day at Clear Lake High School was amazing. "Well over 210 students took the challenge and over 100 want to be in the 'Be the Change' club," Wilson said.

Do I think that four Challenge Day presentations alone will make our schools a better place? No more than did Robert Carradine's final speech in the role of Louis Skolnick at the conclusion of "Revenge of the Nerds" in 1984.

Hearing one of my classmates recount Skolnick's invitation to any of his college alumni "that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you're a nerd or not," to join him and his friend Gilbert, played by Anthony Edwards, I was seething that my classmate would parrot this speech, which had supposedly inspired her, while she continued to ignore me each day.

A lifetime of feeling alone and ostracized won't automatically come to an end after seven hours of shared experiences. But that doesn't mean I don't wholeheartedly believe that Challenge Day presentations should be an ongoing part of a student's high school experience.

Rather, it means that the real work of Challenge Day begins after the presentations, through ongoing meetings of "Be the Change" clubs on campuses, through follow-up "Next Step" workshops and through ongoing commitment to make zero tolerance for bullying and ostracism a reality.

Each of us must "Be the change that we wish to see in the world," in the words of Mohandas (Mahatma) K. Gandhi. The 80 percent of students who are neither bullies nor victims must withhold from bullies the passive compliance that permits bullying to take place. Our schools must have strong policies in place and then aggressively and consistently enforce those policies.

"Be the Change" meetings continue taking place at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Round Table Pizza in Lakeport. For more information about Challenge Day, visit www.challengeday.org/.

Published Sept. 28, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

1 comment:

  1. A keyword search on the phrase “zero tolerance,” performed July 22, 2016, returned 14 usages in reference to bullying among writings on my blog, in which I expressed thoughts and concerns as a survivor of childhood bullying. But “zero tolerance” is imbued with specific meaning in the education community and, as a result, I need to clarify my past usage of this term:



Robust debate and even unusual opinions are encouraged, but please stay on-topic and be respectful. Comments are subject to review for personal attacks or insults, discriminatory statements, hyperlinks not directly related to the discussion and commercial spam.