Challenge Day

Thursday, December 20th, 2018


Challenge Day
Challenge Day is an organization that finds its way back to Chatham High School year after year and changes the way that students and teachers look at one another, makes emotional connections between students who have never even seen each other in the hallways, and establishes new friendships in the classroom.

What makes Challenge Day so popular at CHS? Why does it get invited back every year? I had the incredible chance to attend Challenge Day this year myself, and here’s what I experienced:

When the day started, I entered the C Gym in a single file line, only to find an overwhelming amount of backpacks on the ground, looking like a rainbow that was tied into a thousand knots on the floor. All that was overpowered by roaring cheers from some familiar CHS students, all standing in two lines to create a row in between them, all wearing a red bandana somewhere on their bodies.

After walking through the line, receiving high fives and cheers of encouragement, I found myself standing in a huge circle of chairs with students filing in behind me from the very same line, all taking a random seat in the huge circle of around one-hundred and twenty seats.

The day first started with the types of trust activities that we did in Freshman Year Gym Class. You know, like the ones where you have to pick a random partner and do an activity (I was partnered with a girl that I had to jump up and down with, back to back. However unbeknownst to me, she had a leg brace on due to an ankle injury. I was like “Why isn’t this girl jumping?” until I spun around and was faced with her cast. So sorry again!), but after that, the day escalated into something that I was definitely not expecting.

We were sorted into small “family” groups of around five to six people, and from there it got really emotional. While what everyone said for the entire day is completely confidential, I can assure anyone who is on the fence about participating in future years that it is 100% worth it. Take it from myself, a junior who was swamped by work from her job and internship, AP and honors classes, clubs that she is a part of or runs, and was totally stressing about missing classes for a day before she attended, that I would go to Challenge Day again, without hesitation.

It exploits the things that everyone is too scared to say. With the conversations that take place to the activities that are performed, every single thing that is done at Challenge Day, is done for a reason. It all builds up to the final takeaway of the experience; to just be kind and considerate. It sheds light on the reality that a lot of people are internally struggling with family, friend, school, and mental health issues that they aren’t voicing.

There was a two minute period we had with our little families that was dedicated to just talking about whatever we wanted. No one in my group knew each other, so we had an awkward yet reassuring conversation about the day, the weather, and complete and utter randomness. Later in the day, everyone in the little families had two minutes (each) to talk about their inner feelings of regret, failure, sadness, anxiety, etc., and after, the two leaders said something along the lines of, “That was the same amount of time that your families took to talk about whatever topic you chose earlier today. Imagine if, instead of talking about sports or TV shows, we talked about these things to people. Imagine how much different your relationship would be. How much better you would feel after letting everything go,” and soon everything fell into perspective.

THAT is the importance of Challenge Day. It brings perspective, opinion, emotion, and connections to people who were never affected by one another before. I still see people from my little family in the hallways, and I give them a smile and I wave. I see Kiana from the cafeteria and smile at her when I’m occasionally eating lunch with my friends. Even if I’m not the best of pals with my little family, it’s reassuring to know that if I’m having a bad day, I can always receive a smile while I’m heading to Mrs. Gagliardi’s class, or a wave and a “Hey!” as I’m leaving B160.

For those of you who have experienced Challenge Day too, I hope your takeaway was as valuable as mine, and you can always come sit with me in the library before school starts. And for those of you who haven’t been invited yet, don’t worry, you will be soon, and I sincerely hope it changes everything.