Truckee students to lobby for change | SierraSun.com

Truckee students to lobby for change

Christine Stanley

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun file photo Local high school students play "Two Bun Volleyball" at Sierra Mountain Middle School during Challenge Day last year.

Gabriel Cooper, a senior at Tahoe Truckee High School, is tired of the blatant racism and teasing he witnesses daily on campus. “I see teasing in every single one of my classes,” Cooper said. “But they’re not going to get in trouble for it because it’s ‘no big deal.'”It was for just that reason that Copper and a slew of other forward-thinking students decided to step up and find a way to make a change. At tonight’s Tahoe Truckee School District’s board meeting, a group of Truckee High students from the Friday Night Live/Challenge Day Club, a group that promotes positive choices and activities for teens, will ask the board to factor in $8,000 to fund two Challenge Days per year from here on out. Challenge Day, a day-long event dedicated to ending oppression by breaking down barriers that cause people to be negative, has been available to all high school students in the district since 2002.

“It’s especially great for students who don’t have a support network, which I would say is 50 percent of our kids,” said service learning coordinator Sasha Neumann, who will be supporting her students at tonight’s presentation. “It’s effective because it (gets students) talking about things we don’t usually talk about – the white elephants in our society.”Challenge Day participants, who include students, parents, educators and community members, are taught effective communication and conflict resolution skills that take them beyond passive avoidance to a point where they can feel empowered enough to make a change.”It’s getting to the students who are being bullied and those who are doing the bullying. If you can eliminate either group – if those who are being bullied can stand up for themselves, or the teasing stops – the oppression will end,” Neumann said.With the $8,000 they are hoping to gain from the district, student leaders will be able to fund two Challenge Days each school year, plus pay a day’s wage for each teacher and coach who volunteers to attend.

“After (this year’s) Challenge Day, I saw a noticeable difference at school,” said freshman Eli Vandehei. “A friend of mine quit smoking, I became closer to other people, and discovered things about myself. I was lit on fire about it.”But where the district will be able to find an extra $8,000 in a strapped budget is, at this point, unclear.”We are operating in the red right now, but we have dollars set aside to allocate at the end of the year,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Ralph Johnson. The money that students are asking for could come from the general fund or site funds, depending on what the board deems appropriate.”I would like to see the district provide some form of character enhancement program,” said school board member Mel Cone. “It’s another way to assist the district in accomplishing its educational goals by establishing a means to change a culture of division and teenage politics.”

Check it out:Truckee Tahoe Unified School District Board MeetingWednesday, Jan. 11 at 4:30 p.m.District Office Board Room11839 Donner Pass Road