June 22, 2008
Challenge Day is Creating Classroom Miracles
A very moving session at PUSH this year was led by husband and wife team Rich & Yvonne Dutra-St. John. They've been leading something called Challenge Day in high schools since 1987. After showing us the video (below), they led us through some of the same questions and exercises they did with students.
Their transformative work with teens in high schools centered around ending prejudice, bullying and isolation in all communities.
A former high school teacher and championship wrestling coach, Rich has worked with teens and families since 1978. Before starting Challenge Day, he was a licensed family therapist and drug intervention specialist, where he opened and directed two different adolescent treatment facilities in Northern California, most notably the Thunder Road Adolescent Recovery Center in Oakland.
Working with teens and adults, for over 26 years in a variety of settings, Yvonne has been instrumental in designing and implementing over 17 different nationally recognized prevention and intervention programs for teenagers. Yvonne's earliest experiences varied from doing classroom presentations and school assemblies, to media programs on gender roles and eating disorders.
She later focused her attention on working with at risk youth, addiction and social oppression issues. Yvonne herself faced weight issues as a child and was one of many teenagers who faced bullying and obesity jokes in her school.
It is clear that leading this initiative is an act of passion and love for both of them. They asked the attendees a variety of questions and asked us each to stand if the answer was yes. They ranged from 'have you ever been told you were a 'bad' kid and have you ever faced discrimination because of your color, the size of your body or the tone of your voice to have you ever been witness to someone who has been raped or died because of violence and have you ever been beaten because you weren't man enough?
We shared emotional moments as we all looked around at 90% of the room who standed for nearly nearly every question. I wondered whether the same Challenge Day approach would have worked in my 1970s classroom and was doubtful. Doubtful and yet thrilled that this generation is open and expressive enough to allow themselves to remove the barriers at such a young age.
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Tracked on Jun 12, 2009 6:45:33 AM
Thanks for this one. I've asked my friends to forward the Challenge Day website to a teacher using Stumble.
Posted by: Jack Shipley | Jun 25, 2008 8:46:50 AM