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James Clemens organizes ‘Be the Change’ as Challenge Day follow-up

MADISON – Students and teachers at James Clemens High School are perpetuating the tenets they experienced at Challenge Day.

Students interact during a Challenge Day session.  (CONTRIBUTED)
Students interact during a Challenge Day session. (CONTRIBUTED)

“Students should lead themselves, others and through contribution to their community,” counselor George Cruz said. “Challenge Day … builds towards establishing great leaders to break through stereotypes and barriers to treat others with respect and care.”

Cruz described Challenge Day as “an emotional roller coaster — an experience that was well worth it.”

To capitalize on the momentum, James Clemens’ population is starting “‘Be the Change’ to create a culture of acceptance and to cheer each other on in our successes and then support each other during challenging times,” Cruz said.

Composed of students and teachers, the Be the Change Team will distribute surveys for Challenge Day feedback and ask for “the biggest issues people in our school are facing,” Cruz said. At subsequent meetings, the team will look for solutions.

Changes needed at James Clemens are “typical high school stuff,” such as confinement within a social group, judgment based on looks, loneliness, cliques and ethnic and cultural prejudices, Cruz said.

James Clemens senior Kaylyn Kaeding wants “to take what we did at Challenge Day and demonstrate it in our schools, grocery stores and the rest of the world. It needs to be spread. It just takes someone to stand up and do it. I am willing, are you?”

Senior Leila Elliott believes all students should have the chance to attend Challenge Day, which “opened up so many hearts and helped lots of students and adults get what they had off their chests. Not many people get the chance to meet or see how strong some people are.”

Arrow McDowell, a Jets freshman, “thought Challenge Day was extremely beneficial, even though I cried to my heart’s content … but didn’t feel sad. I want to see students bond with each other the way we did there. I want everyone to know they can cry, and it will be OK.”

For more information, visit challengeday.org.

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