KHS Challenge Day

KHS Challenge Day
By: Todd Martin
Skeptical at first, the Killeen High School freshman realized during Challenge Day that what she was seeing and hearing was exactly what she needed.
“I had been working on myself,” said Makalah Edwards. “It was everything I needed to hear.”
During 10 years as an assistant principal and principal at Patterson Middle School, Kara Trevino, now in her first year as principal at KHS, came to believe deeply in the power of Challenge Day to build compassion on a campus.
In the third week of this semester, the school hosted Challenge Day with 100 students and 25 staff members joining in each of two sessions to experience a day of listening, playing and sharing together.
“It’s an extremely impactful day with students and staff where we build relationships at a deeper level,” Trevino said, summarizing the two days of challenge.
Sharing their positive experiences, Edwards and sophomore De’Vine Shegog acknowledged that teenagers present a tough audience.
“We hide our feelings,” Shegog said. “This helped us express our feelings. It changed all our minds.”
Two trainers first briefed the participating adults. Those school staff members spent much of the day with groups of four or five students, serving as mentors while experiencing the exercises alongside students.
There were opportunities for games, hugs, dancing, expressing feelings in small groups and sharing with the big group – all designed to move participants beyond comfort zones.
“I was curious and anxious and glad to be a part of it,” said school counselor Esperanza Traino. “It was a beautiful time where we could let our students know we are here for you. They let their guard down and talked to us about their lives.”
One particularly powerful portion asked students to “step across the line” if they had experienced specified challenges such as witnessing violence, neglect or hunger.
They also were directed to think about someone they know who is battling illness, has a loved one in jail or deals with violence. “A lot of us have a lot in common,” said Shegog. “We are just so distant.”
“It’s OK to feel what I’m feeling,” said Edwards, explaining what she learned. “It’s OK to be ourselves. I opened up my heart.”
In small group discussions, students had the chance to share “if you knew me, you’d know” to open up about insecurities, fears and parts of their lives that leave them confused.
The principal said she plans to gather participants again to conduct a survey and that she is interested in repeating the activity next year. “It helps so much when we have personal relationships with students and staff,” Trevino said.
Even after going through Challenge Day a dozen times or so, the principal said she still learns about herself, the need to listen and to be grateful.
“We’re all human and we all suffer,” said Traino. “We’re all here for each other and we need to talk to each other.”
“I think it will change our interactions,” said Shegog. “We’ll engage more and interact.”