In 2004 my son Nic, then a seventh grader at Icicle River Middle School (IRMS) participated in a one day, life changing event called "Challenge Day." Being new to Leavenworth, we had never heard of this program. Nic really didn't discuss his Challenge Day experience but I could see that he was greatly impacted. He began to relax and establish friendships with a diverse and supportive peer group. He started to truly enjoy school and developed a real sense of belonging in our new environment. Nic turned a corner on Challenge Day. He started showing greater empathy, compassion, and respect for others.
I wasn't the only person who witnessed the profound impact Challenge Day could have on a middle school student. In 2006, Oprah Winfrey shared the benefits of Challenge Day with her viewers. Almost overnight, the demand for Challenge Day skyrocketed and so did the cost. Unfortunately, this incredible program became far too expensive to continue.
Concerned that Cascade students would no longer experience this powerful, high-energy program in which participants are guided through a series of experiential learning processes, local moms Heidi Kuhn and Pam Brulotte contacted the founders of Challenge Day. Through perseverance and hard work, they convinced the founders to train them to become Challenge Day facilitators. In the past two weeks, Heidi and Pam, along with some amazing volunteers have led Challenge Day with seventh and eighth grade students at IRMS. In the coming weeks, they will do the same at Cascade High School.
As the new administrator at IRMS, I have observed firsthand the remarkable effect Challenge Day has already had on our school's culture. Old rifts have been laid to rest, students have committed to treating one another with kindness and respect, and an overall sense of calm can be felt throughout the building.
On behalf of the students and staff at IRMS, I want to thank Pam and Heidi as well as the many volunteers who made Challenge Day possible. These individuals volunteered their time, resources, and support to help students increase their personal power and self-esteem. They have helped shift dangerous peer-pressure to positive peer support and eliminate the acceptability of bullying. I am truly grateful to the staff, parents, and community members whose efforts on Challenge Day, and every day, make Icicle River Middle School a great place to be.