Challenge Day is an ongoing TJ tradition where students are brought together to express their feelings in a safe space.
It’s almost that time of year again for TJ’s junior class. Challenge Day is coming up, which means juniors have a few more weeks to prepare themselves for a day of fun, challenges, and lots of bonding. After they return from a refreshing winter break, juniors will attend the seven-hour long workshop on January 30th and 31st, where they are given the opportunity to relate to one another through their profound experiences.
Ten years ago, TJ’s social worker Samanda Davis proposed the idea of hosting Challenge Day for TJ students in order to establish a healthy and respectful environment among students and teachers. With the help from a group of parents and the nonprofit organization, Challenge Denver, Davis was able to receive the funding to bring the popular program to TJ. Since then, students, educators, and community members come together every year to connect with one another and to build a lasting bond with each other. Knowing how Challenge Day has brought past classes together, junior Jazz Wright stated, “I expect to gain new friends from this experience.” Seniors who have gone through this program are always grateful for the experience, knowing that they have gained a stable support system in their peers and aren’t alone in their problems. Senior Milan Bartelt vocalized, “hearing other people’s stories and then sharing my own was a beautiful thing.” The event helps students gain insight into what’s going on in other people’s lives and that despite how different their individual problems may seem, they are more alike than they think.
Challenge Day takes place in the school’s gym where students start the day off with music and games in order to step out of their comfort zones. From there, tough topics such as bullying and other daily struggles are discussed through various exercises. The program goes beyond the usual anti-bullying efforts; it aims to create a long-lasting movement of positivity and change within the school. Davis expressed, “[The students] are empowered to be their own change-makers.”
Students tend to enter the program with their guards up, but throughout the day, those barriers are broken down. Although juniors may not know what they’re getting into, senior Jack Thibodeau suggests that students should, “be as open as possible since everyone there is supportive.” Along with changing perspectives, Challenge Day gives juniors an opportunity to communicate their feelings with no judgement. In doing this, students are able to see a clear representation of how to express themselves in a healthy way and how to react to their peers confiding in them.
Challenge Day continues to improve TJ’s school culture where students feel valued, cared for, and respected. By seeing the hardships that their peers go through, students realize that they are not alone in their struggles. This powerful concept unifies them as a class even more. This year, juniors will undoubtedly leave Challenge Day motivated to create a positive change in the Spartan community.