Thomas Jefferson

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Challenging the Stereotype  

Posted 02/08/2023 by Campbell Mahoney

Challenge Day aims to have students to look past their differences to find connection. photo courtesy of Challenge Day.

Thomas Jefferson High School is fighting back against the stereotype that emotions and experiences should not be shared with others through Challenge Day. 

For over a decade, Thomas Jefferson High School has been participating in ‘Challenge Day’ in order to bring the school closer together through shared experiences and commiseration on topics such as oppression, bullying, violence, and more. According to Samanda Davis, one of TJ’s social workers who fought to bring the program back after COVID, Challenge Day is “open-heart surgery for the soul.” 

Challenge Day is a four-day event that members of the Junior and Senior class attend. On Monday, February 13th, members of the Junior class whose last names begin with A-L take part in the event. The remainder of the Junior class, whose last names include M-Z attend on Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday are split between the Senior class; last names A-L on Wednesday and M-Z on Thursday. Typically, Challenge Day is only for the Junior class. However, due to COVID, the Senior class never had a chance to participate in the event, so this year, a typically two-day event is turning into a four-day one. The event is held in the gym, and facilitators from California fly in to lead the participants in fun activities and games that can highlight issues that students deal with on a daily basis as well as reminding kids that they are not alone.

 “The program is designed to allow kids to just be heard – not fixed or changed or any of those things,” said Davis. She was inspired to bring the program to TJ after watching something similar on Oprah. She felt as though what the program was able to do in just one day in terms of gaining a sense of community was something that she’d never seen before, and wanted to bring that type of connectedness to TJ. 

Each year that TJ has hosted Challenge Day, there has been a massive impact on the students. “You can just feel the change,” said Davis. “The school feels safer, you feel more connected to your peers. Challenge Day inspires kids to be changemakers and they feel inspired to lift others up.” Students, wanting to feel the kind of connectedness that previous classes had, asked for the program to be brought back after COVID. The program has helped immensely in bringing culture back to the school after such a long time apart with remote learning, and it’s clear that both teachers and students have been yearning for it to be brought back. 

“What typically happens is the first day, students don’t want to do it – they think it’s stupid and end up opting out,” Davis explained. “Then they hear about what an amazing experience it was, and they try and opt back in for the second day. However, there’s no room to do that this year, so students need to make sure to go on the day they’re assigned.” If they wish not to participate in the activities, students are required to attend school and must opt out of the program by talking to or emailing their counselors. If in need of assistance, email

Instead of opting out and regretting their decisions later, students from the Junior and Senior classes should simply attend their Challenge Day. Eliminating a chance to be more connected with their peers and community is one that they will likely regret for a long while, especially after hearing their classmates rave about the experience the next day. Challenge Day is finally back and better than ever, and both students and teachers at TJ are excitedly awaiting its arrival.