Challenge Day inspires

Once a year each high school in the Puyallup School District hosts Challenge Day for 100 students and staff members.

Challenge Day is just one part of the Change Project, which is also implemented into advisory classes. One of the things students have done for the Change Project is brainstorm ways to improve the school.

However, there have been difficulties.

“We have an idea of what we want to do and have thought of a process, but we do not know how to get it implemented schoolwide,” English teacher Cherokee Ainslie said.

Another issue that has come up is apathy in students.

“It is really hard to engage people who are normally not engaged at all and do not care,” senior Gabi Touriel said.

At Puyallup High School Challenge Day serves as a foundation to the Change Project, which Career Specialist Shelley Jellison started several years ago.

The theory is that the change that happens with those 100 students and staff members will then come into the bigger population of the school.

— Shelley Jellison

Challenge Day is meant to better the environment of the entire school but directly influences only a fraction of the total population.

“I think Challenge Day should be here maybe twice a year,” Touriel said. “That way more kids can go, because I really feel this is a needed event that people need to experience in high school.”

Future plans for the affair include expanding to include more people.

“We would eventually like to offer [Challenge Day] to all of the secondary schools,” Jellison said. “We would love to see from the time a student starts in seventh grade to the time they graduate that at some point they have gotten to participate in Challenge Day. It is a concern that we can only have 100 students. During the selection process we are very conscious in having a wide variety of students involved. It’s a slice of what Puyallup High School has in its student population.”

Enlarging the event would certainly be beneficial, as it helps students and staff find common ground with one another. Additionally, there is much interest in it.

“This year, I have had a lot of kids ask how they can get to be part of the Change Project or at least Challenge Day,” Ainslie said. “I have never really had that happen in the past, so it is kind of neat to have kids asking now.”

In the diversity of the group of 100, Challenge Day helps to bridge social differences and relating to other students.

“Especially in high school, we are constantly surrounded by an environment with a lot of pressures, especially social pressures,” Touriel said. “Sometimes we change ourselves drastically to fit social pressures and we should not have to. I think Challenge Day is a really nice way to also show people that once you get out in the real world it is only going to be just you, so you might as well just love yourself. I like that it allows people to be stripped down emotionally to the same level. It allows them to see people equally as their own.”

Ainslie has seen the effects of Challenge Day within the school.

“I do think that since we have started having [Challenge Day] our community has become better,” Ainslie said.

One of Challenge Day’s goals is to influence the climate of the school. Because of the limited number of participants is limited, its effects rely completely upon the participant’s actions.

“It has impacted us kids that were involved in it, but how it impacts the school is on us,” Touriel said. “I know personally, I am doing things to better the school. I am talking to people that I do not normally talk to; I am giving high fives everyday; just little things. It is really our responsibility to impact the school now that we have been impacted.”