June 20, 2007

Challenge Day

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.?-Margaret Mead

On April 3rd, 2007 I volunteered to be an adult facilitator for Challenge Day at Hamilton Alternative High School in Lincoln Park. Challenge Day is a world-renowned program (Oprah had a special on it last year) that encourages students to look inward and use empathy to relate to each other and break down judgments to create a loving and supportive environment. Now, being an Alternative High School, many of these kids had been dismissed from other schools and districts because of drug use, violence, teen pregnancy etc… Long story short, they had a lot going on inside and came to the situation with lots of baggage, not that anyone wouldn’t. I’m not sure how to put into words what I experienced, all I can say is that it was amazing, I saw transitions happening to people right before my eyes. We were able to break down barriers and connect with each other in a non-superficial way, overcoming and learning things about ourselves in one day that sometimes takes many people (as my Dad put it) 10 years to accomplish.

The blurb on the back of a card I got yesterday said: “What is Challenge Day? Imagine a school day where enemies find their common ground and make peace; where friends heal past hurts and make amends; where young people ignite their passion for service and leadership; where teachers and youth alike join hands to create a school where every student feels safe, loved and celebrated. This is the work of the heart. This is the work of Challenge Day.? By demonstrating that love, respect and connection are possible in schools the award-winning Challenge Day program inspires youth and adults to be the change they want to see – in their schools, in their communities, and in the world.

The challenge day formula for change is to “be the change,? plainly put:
Notice – Wake up! What’s happening around you and inside of you?
Choose – How do you want things to be?
Act – Do what it takes to create the changes you want to see!

Something I really took to heart yesterday from the experience was this quote, if I could pass along any one thing:
“Drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, smoking, teasing, bullying, gangs, violence. These are all actually symptoms of a greater problem – loneliness. If our children are feeling lonely, it’s not because of a lack of people; it’s because of a lack of connection among the people?
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