This past winter, in February to be exact, my co-worker and I began to plan this week's Challenge Day. We applied for grants to fund the event. Because it is so expensive ($3,200 per day, plus travel expenses from CA) we needed quite a bit of support. The first wonderful event to roll our way was when our school district's endowment foundation saw fit to fund nearly the entire amount of Challenge Day (they gave us well over the amount we wrote the grant for). I still have the award letter in my binder. Reading it last winter gave me chills, tears, and excitement all at once. I was floored by their generosity. At that point we knew we could actually pull it off, and bring the Challenge Day program to our school, so the two of us got to work on coordinating the event.
During a spring staff inservice, we showed a video that details what the day and the organization is all about. There weren't many dry eyes in the room. Several staff members were eager to do whatever it took to help us organize the event in the fall (even though there wasn't much at that point!). We started to go into classrooms and talk to the current 7th grade students so they knew it would be coming when they started 8th grade. Over the summer we crafted press releases for the local paper and our school's summer newsletters and mailers. We even received a few adult volunteer requests via email during our vacations. The good feelings kept rolling along.
Of course, once school began the push was on. All 117 students had to have permission forms turned in. They all had to have documented lunch plans. We had to arrange for 35 adult facilitators to be there for the day. There were little things too...tissue boxes, markers, pens, name tags, agendas for each grade level (even the non-participating ones), making sure the bells were turned off...then worrying about fog delays! By the week of Challenge Day the two of us were big, fat, giant balls of worry and stress.
Wednesday night found the two of us at school late, sweating it out in the gym as we unstacked 153 (yes, I counted) chairs, made a giant circle with another inside, set out the tables per the diagram, found trash cans and placed them around the room, made sure the windows were blocked, the registration tables were ready in the hallway, even the signs for lunch were posted. By the time I arrived home sometime after 8:00, my son was crying, my poor husband wasn't feeling well, my head was splitting open, and I didn't know where I would dig to find the energy for the next day.
The alarm came through at 4:15 Challenge Day morning and by 4:30 I was up and going. I had to be at the school an hour earlier than I typically rushed into the building. I remember thinking that the moment of calm I had as I walked into a completely empty building at 6:25 was probably my last. By the time we met our poor, lost (literally...our school is in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by road closures), Challenge Day leaders, ushered in the adult facilitators, dealt with herding the 6-7th grade students to class, and registered the 8th grade students I had somehow found the energy I doubted existed the night before. I was totally pumped, and ready to show these unsuspecting students how to rock their world.
I won't give you a complete summary of the day here. It wouldn't be fair to the confidences that were shared in the room. What I will share is that I danced my bootie off, cried my eyes out, hugged until my arms were like jello, and felt like I could fly by the end of the day. I witnessed students doing things so powerful and simple that they brought me to my feet and tears at the same time. We may have had adults there to "facilitate" the day, but those students showed us what they are capable of. If the world can look like what I saw in that gym on Thursday, this is where I want to be. I am infinitely more proud to be a part of the work family I come from, infinitely more proud of the students I shared the day with and forever bound to that group of people who shared the day with me.
Challenge Day is a little like childbirth in a way...you work so hard to get to that point, keep thinking it can't possibly be worth all that effort, then it happens, it is beautiful and amazing. Now we are all left excited to try to fund next year's efforts. We are gearing up to start our Be The Change Team (that starts NEXT WEEK!!) I can't wait to post to y'all all the amazing and wonderful things my kids will do, for themselves, each other, their school, their community, and the world. But I want them to remember always...it only takes one person to be the change...