National Progam Challenges Local Students to Break Barriers
One of the greatest challenges --anyone with children knows-- are the pressures of being an adolescent. Now a national organization is spending the day helping local students overcome obstacles.
It's called "Challenge Day" and students in middle and high schools throughout North Central Florida are breaking through their emotional barriers. Today's celebration started with a soul train line where the students wereÂ applauded for showing up. The goal: to help students deal with stress and to bond with each other.
Workshop facilitator, Randy Fortes, who flew in from California said "We're doing activities that have them see each other in a different way."
A hundred students from Eastside High School met on neutral turf. The gymnasium at the MLK Center became a safe space for students from all cliques to break down the barriers between their social status.
That includes "the popular the shy people, the smart the very smart people... The jocks," said football player Nate Williams. But students come for many reasons, for high school senior Stacey Shaw it's comfort.
"It's really helping me because I just lost my mom over the summer. So it's like I've been having that bottled up and holding that in."
The workshop --which is done across the country-- has been around since 1987. It's as much a growing experience for the students as it is the volunteers.Â As adult facilitators, they bridge the gaps between themselves and the students.
and their approach is simple said one volunteer, "Just be yourself, no matter what cultural background you have, no matter what race you are."
The results can be powerful. "The change through the course of the day and seeing the kids really get real," explained Travis Butcher who has been volunteering for several years.
But past the hugs, the tears and the new friendships, some ask how lasting are the effects? Shaw hopes it will be as important to her classmates who also chose to be here, "that they don't take it as a joke," she added.
Ultimately, Challenge Day is about gaining the confidence to make the changes that you want to see in the world.
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