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Students urged to be the change they desire

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

For some local students, Challenge Day marked the first time in a long while that any were reminded they are loved, appreciated and valued.

The biannual event, funded this year by the Lahontan Community Foundation and the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, aims to help young people realize their personal value and to stop judging their peers.

The day-long event, held on three different days this week to accommodate students from all five local high schools, has elements of silliness and fun. But the focus is largely on such serious topics as racism, death, depression, self-worth and compassion.

“There’s not a lot of room for your feelings in our society. So we’re turning our feelings into diseases and addictions,” said Challenge Day leader Justin Trehant to a room full of students and a few adult volunteers. “Today is about being real, about being who you are.”

To accomplish that, students and adults alike were put into small groups, or families, with which they interacted through the day.

The secrets shared were emotional and sincere ” stories of abuse, addictions, loss, fears, dreams and dramas. But there was no shortage of listening ears and open arms.

“You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself, and all these activities seem so simple, but they mean so much,” said Forest Charter senior Michael O’Connor.

The point of such interactions are to make young people realize that they are not so different from their peers, that the people they judge have reason for being who they are, and that accepting what’s different is healthier than rejection.

“I know that I’m not by myself, and thank God because I am so over being alone,” said Sierra High sophomore Elise Rios. “Starting today the kind of woman that I am is strong, powerful and loving.”

The event has received positive feedback from students each year, and as participants spoke at the close of this year’s event, it was again clear that the message of the day had been heard and taken to heart.

“I hope that we can take this all out of this room,” said Sierra High junior Alejandra Urbina. “I’m not going to judge ” I want to be friends with a lot more people.”


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