Katrina Arsky

Challenge Day: expectations and experiences

January 10, 2019

This year, over 570 freshmen participated in the second annual Challenge Day held on Wednesday, January 9 and Thursday, January 10. The event was hosted by an organization of the same name. Facilitators from the organization, Los Altos teachers and parent volunteers led students in discussions about topics such as teasing, social oppression, racism, harassment, conflict management, suicide and peer pressure. Challenge Day facilitators attempted to advocate for increased peer acceptance and self-esteem.

The Talon spoke to some freshmen about their expectations going into Challenge Day and followed up with them after the experience.

Akshaan Ahuja

 

Before

Going into it, I have an open mind. I’ve heard negative and positive things about it and I just want to experience it for myself. I assume we will do team-building games to get to know your peers and just activities and games like that.”

After

“It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Most people think about high school as [just] a social hierarchy, [but] Challenge Day brought us together. This totally exceeded my expectations. It’s definitely something to look forward to. Some people will have negative attitudes going into it, but it’s definitely a valuable experience.”

 

Annie Specker

Before

“I’m really interested to see what it’s going to be like because I’ve heard a lot of good things. It sounds like a cool experience.”

After

“Overall, it was a really positive experience for a lot of people, but there were definitely some parts of it that could be changed. [The activities were] mostly about sad experiences that had happened to you. I think it would have been better if they had mentioned you could have [happy] emotions too rather than just crying.”

Cameron Cox

Before

“I’ve heard mixed reviews about it and that you’re going to cry, so I’m a little nervous about that, but I think it’ll be fine. I thought it was just group activities like talking about your feelings and stuff.”

After

“I enjoyed it. Coming into it, I had very low expectations. People made it sound forced and [said] that it wasn’t really bonding, [but] I found it to be quite the opposite. I came to tears a couple of times because it was really eye-opening to see your peers going through these traumatic experiences.”

Gaby Sabsovich

Before

“I don’t know much about it but I’ve heard that it makes you think deeply about who you’re surrounded by. I have mixed feelings because I don’t really like thinking about my emotions or being personal, but at the same time, I feel like it will be a good experience.”

After

“I understand [we were supposed] to get to know each other, but I don’t think it was very useful or necessary. It was pretty uncomfortable because I didn’t know anyone in [my] randomly chosen group. Some people did find it [helpful], but I don’t think it should be a mandatory thing for all of us to do every year.”

Medha Valmiki

Before

“I actually have mixed emotions about Challenge Day. I’m really excited to open up to new peers and possibly new friends, however, I’m also slightly nervous about sharing personal details about my life with people I barely know.”

After

“Challenge Day was really eye-opening for me because I got to see the perspectives of my peers and not just think that they have this perfect life. I certainly don’t. Everyone’s life has something hard, fun or different about it, so it was cool to see [that].”

Olivia Pye

Before

“They are hyping it up to be super emotional and I’m not super excited because I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone.”

After

“I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. I thought it was going to be really cheesy, but it wasn’t. They slowly let us into more serious topics, so they didn’t dump it [all] on us.”

Triya Basu

Before

“I know that it’s an opportunity to talk to new people and share your experiences with [others]. I’m excited to talk to new people because sometimes I have a tough time branching out. I think we will have team bonding exercises and games to bring people closer. I’m looking forward to it!”

After

“I thought it was cool because I got to meet so many new people. There is so much more that goes on in someone’s life that I don’t know about, so I want to keep that in mind. I wish we had [this] in other grades [so we could] have it every year with different groups of people. A lot of emotions came out [today]. Usually, I’m not an emotional person, but I did feel for other people and [I’m] more grateful for what I have.”

Allie Bricca

Before

“Based on what I’ve heard about Challenge Day, it seems like a great experience. However, I’ve also heard it can be very emotional, especially around sensitive topics. Personally, I’m excited to see how it goes. I think I’m good at opening up to other people and sharing my experiences. I’m also curious to get to know other students better. I don’t really know what sort of activities we will do, but I am excited to find out. I am expecting them to be things that make everyone branch out and be able to have empathy for other students.”

After

“Overall, I thought it was an interesting way to get to know your peers better and step out of your comfort zone. It changed my perspective on people that I might have been quick to judge at first [and] allowed me to have more respect for my peers. Many students [cried] once they had an idea of what their peers were going through.”

Simran Sood

Before

“I don’t really know what to expect. In the Challenge Day presentation, we were told that it would be a full day of bonding and learning about our peers. I’m really curious about how it will go.”

After

“I think that Challenge Day could be beneficial for some people, but I don’t think it helped me to get to know people in our school or to feel better about my experiences. I don’t think it should be mandatory. I think they should continue it but [allow students] to opt out without needing parents to sign you out of it.”

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