COLLEGEVILLE – Perkiomen Valley High School students, staff and faculty had the opportunity to take part in an inspirational program designed to break down barriers between student groups through music, games and discussions as part of Challenge Day, which was held on Feb. 19. During the day-long interactive program, students, faculty and staff started off by participating in activities designed to help them lower their guard. For example, they were invited to “high five” and “low five” each other and shake hands with the person sitting next to them in some of the introductory, ice-breaker activities. These exercises were designed to help those involved become more open to the discussions and activities that followed. Challenge Day presenters also introduced the group to the rules for the day, and encouraged them to “notice,” “choose” and “act.” They also stressed the message shared by Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Perkiomen Valley High School first experienced Challenge Day in 2010-11, and reviews were so positive that it continued the following year. During the 2012-13 school year, the high school was unable to provide the program due to funding challenges. Thanks to an initiative to generate additional funding in 2013-14, the program is being brought back. A wide variety of students from all grade levels are invited to take part in Challenge Day, along with staff and faculty members. The idea is to bring together groups of students and adults who might not typically interact, so that they have the chance to get to know one another better and address issues that might affect how everyone in the school interacts. The event has had a profound impact on the Perkiomen Valley High School students who participated – they describe the day as an “amazing” and “emotional” experience. To see what they have to say about the program, click here for testimonials and a video link.“We have found that Challenge Day led to a lot of open dialogue among our students, faculty and staff,” said Principal Cyndi Lewis. “It’s our hope to see the good will generated by this event spread to all areas of our high school.” Challenge Day is a national program offered by the non-profit group of the same name. The non-profit’s mission is to provide youth and their communities with programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connections among different groups of people. Through music, games and other activities, participants learn to recognize various stereotypes and labels that can be hurtful, and are provided with examples of healthy ways to express emotion. The emotional process can lead to students making amends for offending others and agreeing to stand up against oppression. Challenge Day was founded by husband and wife team of Yvonne and Rich Dutra in 1987 and has grown to receive national attention through the MTV series, “If You Really Knew Me,” which showcases Challenge Day events at schools around the country. For more information, visit www.challengeday.org.