The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Students Challenged To New Level of Respect


February 27, 2019

Walking a downtown sidewalk, or a hallway at a school, a person is greeted by laughter, business seriousness, and a host of emotions between.

The question is if what you see is what is truly dominating that person, or is it the version that person wants the public to see.

A program is returning to Sidney High School designed to help students see each other for who they truly are, and in the process develop a level of respect sometimes missing in schools.

In 2018, Sidney High School hosted a program for the freshman class that at its basic, shows students are not that different from each other. The program included a combination of physical activities, talks and small group discussions.

Sophomore Elly Weimer, who participated in the 2018 event, said the program is designed to bring students closer together. One of the activities done in the event is volleyball — with a big beach ball. She said there was also an activity called “Cross the Line.” It is where students stand at a line at they move forward if they can relate to a specific event. For example, “cross the line if you know someone who is bullied in school,” “step forward if you know someone whose parents are not married,” “step forward if death has impacted your family.”

The activity is frequently seen as a way to show the disparity between races. This time, however, it was used to show how similar students are, according to Weimer. The small group discussions were a mix of students and adult peer participants. In the small groups, age didn't matter. Barriers were broken down. Positions of authority were unimportant for the group. It was about people being people.

“I don't think I've seen so many tears,” she said.

She said since the 2018 Challenge Day, the class has grown closer. It doesn't mean everyone are close friends, but there is a new level of respect and appreciation.

“We've got closer since Challenge Day,” she said.

She said when Challenge Day 2018 was announced, she was unsure what to expect, or if she wanted to attend. That changed when she took part in the program.

“I really liked it a lot,” she said. “It gave us a bond I don't think other classes had.”

The small groups were composed of deliberately random participants in the daylong program. Participants who are not known as talkative were usually more relaxed in small groups. Senior Junior Lucero, who participated in the 2018 program, said that was one of the hardest parts of the exercise, watching adults break down.

Lucero said it is the kind of program he wished would have been available when he was a freshman. He said one of the learning moments was changing the definition of bullying, admitting that sometimes words hurt.

Shelby Price, one of the organizers of the event, said changes occur when people see each other for their similarities, not their differences.

“I think it was as real for adults as it was for kids,” she said. “It was all about being real, laying your emotions out.”

The adult participants in 2018 were primarily the investors and supporters of the program. This year, organizers are working to bring in different adults.

Sidney High School Principal Chris Arent said they hope to continue what occurred last year. He said he lost both of his parents prior to the 2018 Challenge Day. Emotions were still raw.

“It felt very relieving to me to openly express emotions,” he said.

He added the other adults who took part in the 2018 event also enjoyed the outcome.

“The adults that participated last year were very positive about it,” he said.

The 2019 Challenge Day is scheduled for March 14.


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