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Challenge Day: A volunteer experience like no other

Something we have been hearing a lot in the ONE by ONE conversations is the desire among students for solutions to bullying problems and for youth to have a greater voice in their community.

Challenge Day: Allishia

Looking for a way YOU can make that happen? Volunteer at to spend one day at a Duval County high school for Challenge Day. Don't take it from me - see our guest post by Allishia Edmonds (left), our events and outreach coordinator about her experience.
If you are interested in volunteering for Challenge Day, check out the schedule below and contact Marketia Fleming at flemingm@duvalschools.org to get more information or to sign up.
-- Deirdre
 
 
 
In 2010, I was approached by one of my high school teachers from Wolfson High School to be an adult chaperone for a program called Challenge Day. It was coming to Wolfson and they were looking for volunteers. Of course, Mrs. Force would come to me - that's just what she does, ropes me into all sorts of extra activities. Because of that, I have had many wonderful opportunities in my life that I could have never accomplished without her.
I had no indication that this one would be a life-changing experience.
Challenge Day was still fairly new at the time, so I did some research and found that it was their mission "to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression." While impressed with the concept, I was hesitant. Were these students really empowered and changed?
Although I didn't realize it, youth empowerment was slowly beginning to be something close to my heart.
At Challenge Day, we were told to simply listen to the youth, provide personal experiences and only reveal things the students said if it were harmful to them or anyone else. The day started with so much excitement. We were their cheerleaders. High fiving them when they came in, hugging and smiling.
When the students came in, they looked at us like we were from a foreign country, confused at all the fuss. Initially, they stayed with their cliques even when told not to. The activities were awkward for them. But that would quickly change as the students began to be forced out of their boxes.
"Please cross the line if you have ever been judged by the color of your skin." More kids crossed than you can imagine, as the ones who didn't held up the symbol for love to show their respect.
"Please cross the line if you never had the chance to be a kid, please cross the line if you have ever been bullied, if you have ever struggled or know someone who struggled with their sexuality." The questions went on and on. Students, teachers, adult chaperones (including myself) participated in the crossing of the line with tear-filled eyes. Students began to realize and respect truths about their classmates that they would have never otherwise known.
There were "if you really knew me, you would know…" moments. Students apologized, publicly, to specific students for years of bullying. Kids were hugging kids they didn't know (or take the time to get to know) before this day. The youth were empowered to speak and be heard like never before and they all felt they could conquer the world!
That day changed my life. I could relate to these students' struggles and they could relate to mine. I would call it a defining moment in my life - where I recognized my true passion and my life mission. I have been put in this world to empower the youth of today, to allow them to be heard, to give them an outlet and resources to make change happen in their own lives and their community. From that day forward, I vowed to find a way to spark a change in our leaders of tomorrow so they will believe in their ability to impact our city and the world. Thank you, Challenge Day, for putting that spark in me!
-- Allishia
 
Volunteer dates
Ribault High        April 23-25, 2012
First Coast High    April 30 - May 2, 2012
Forrest High        May 14-16, 2012
Raines High         May 14-16, 2012
Randolph Academies of Technology        May 21-23, 2012
Wolfson High     May 21-23, 2012