“Our vision is to make sure that every child lives in a world where they are safe, loved and celebrated,” said David Guzman, student support coordinator at PHS. “One of the main components that we have nationwide in schools are bullying and harassment. We know it’s an issue and we are doing everything in our power to give staff and students a tool to fight it.”
The 6 ½-hour long, two-day program challenges youth and adults to create a trusting relationship by helping participants step out of their comfort zone utilizing games and music to break through social stigmas and stereotypes.
Leaders also discuss the proper ways to express their emotions and will dive into social issues that continue to affect communities and schools throughout the region.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to see and understand the students,” said Janet Lomeli, co-coordinator of Challenge Day. “These kids have a lot to deal with. They are not just coming to school. They are doing sports, after school activities, dealing with peer pressure and keeping up with their families. Sometimes they are just overwhelmed.”
Lomeli hopes the workshop will increase communication throughout the community, regardless of age, and will help students stand against oppression and reexamine the effects of bullying and teasing.
“These sessions allow the kids to get to know each other, and understand each other,” said Guzman. “It’s useful for adults too because the program allows us to outreach into our community, which is important for the kids’ wellbeing.”
Although Challenge Day has been hosted at PHS before, Guzman is ecstatic to see the program’s sphere of influence growing. PHS’s first Challenge Day began as an exit exam program for two students back in the 2010-2011 school year before finally coming to fruition again in 2012-2013. This is the school’s third time hosting the program, although the three-year grant used to fund the project will end this year.
Students and teachers, however, are coming together to raise funds for the program by teaming up with the Oakland Raiders to sell discounted tickets, as well as “Be the Change” tee shirts. All proceeds raised go back to the Challenge Day fund. So far, the team has raised enough money for another two years, at least.
Although many students have applied to be apart of the event, the program is based on a first-come first-serve basis. To help more students get into the program, PHS is increasing the number of sessions per year, and will host another Challenge Day event on Feb. 4 and 5, 2014.
“The kids have been talking about this program more amongst themselves, and we want to help bring the kids back, and keep them thinking about the program’s morals. We are going to try to get every kid to go at least once,” said Lomeli.
A “Be the Change” club has also been formed from these efforts, and attempts to curb many students enthusiasm during trying times, including finals week.
“The kids will hand out ‘smarties’ and candies during finals, and will give free high fives, anti-bullying quizzes and scavenger hunts,” said Lomeli.
“It’s a great program, and the community gets to see what we are doing. Every adult who has gone through this process has said it was a great experience,” added Guzman.
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.