By Adam MacDonald
On April 19, Fernie Secondary Students participated in Challenge Day, one of several to come to Fernie in recent years. Founded in 1987, the 6.5-hour program challenges students to “Be the Change” through a series of eye-opening exercises that expose participants to the effects of bullying, celebrate the diversity of our schools, and hope to create a safe and welcoming community in which students can learn.
The emotional day leaves students drained, but also fills them with a deeper understanding of the hardships many of their peers face on a daily basis. Val Purdy, an adult volunteer who took part in the workshop, says: “I think it’s a great day. It is an awakening moment for many kids; you learn to appreciate what you do have.”
Val also speaks of the frustration many parents have in trying to understand their child’s experience, because the intense emotions experienced throughout the day are simply hard to articulate. “Unless you have been a part of Challenge Day you can’t really understand the effect it has; I am really lucky to have been a part of it,” says Val.
Many students who have participated in the experience say that their most prominent memory is of a group exercise called “Cross the Line.” The activity, which is done in complete silence, is a visible representation of the difficulties many students face in their lives. By having students cross an empty aisle to show that they have had an experience, such as losing a parent or being hurt by a family member’s alcoholism, Val says, “the kids realize that there are a lot of their friends or kids in their school that have big problems in their lives.”
Pam McLeod, Betty Robb, and Brenda Caldwell were the organizers of this year’s Challenge Day for Fernie Secondary School.