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Be the Change: RHS club reinforces feelings of worth

RHS student club reinforces feelings of connection, worth

Dec 12, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

In an effort to discourage bullying, a newly founded student club is sponsoring "Be the Change" month this December at Riverton High School.

Club Hope adviser Brenda Iden said the group was formed as a follow-up to the school's annual Challenge Day event that encourages students to "demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression," according to challengeday.org.

"We're trying to make every student at the high school feel like they're an important part of the high school -- to feel that they have value and that their presence here is important," Iden said.

With that goal in mind, she said Club Hope students have hosted monthly "Be the Change" weeks this year, when they ask students to participate in activities that help them connect with their peers. For example, during one week students were encouraged to eat lunch with someone new and to make sure no one in the cafeteria was sitting alone. Other challenges have to do with physical touch -- Iden said for one week she asked students to try to hug at least one person every day.

"I think it's deep," Iden said of the exercise.

She talked about studies that show children need a physical connection with others to survive.

"I think we as adults need that still," she added.

For December's month-long "Be the Change" marathon, Iden said she tried to come up with holiday themed challenges. On one day, students were supposed to "act like Frosty the Snowman" when they greeted their classmates in the hallways.

"A jolly happy soul," Iden said, describing the famous snowman in an e-mail to staff. "Share the joy!"

Another school day was dedicated to "reindeer hunting."

"Wear your camouflage and remember to be kind to everyone, not just those that are 'deer' to your heart," Iden wrote. "Meet someone new and make them one of your 'deer' friends."

On Wednesday, teachers were asked to begin each class period with a group hug -- an activity Iden's fourth-hour study hall accepted enthusiastically. When Iden reminded them about the day's challenge, most of the students rushed to the center of the room where they gathered in a circle and slung their arms over one another's shoulders. Anyone who didn't immediately participate was invited to join, and once everyone interested in the exercise was assembled together they chanted, "I am an important person at RHS."

Senior Kaleb Heidt said the ongoing "Be the Change" challenges have had an effect at the school.

"I think it kind of ties people together," he said.

Others agreed that the Challenge Day program, which was designed to discourage bullying in schools, really "sinks in."

"It makes you a better person on the inside," sophomore Shaide Stover said. "You get to meet other people who are like you."

Iden said she hears similar feedback from most people who participate in a Challenge Day -- students and teachers.

"Kids say we need this in every school," Iden said. "And teacher says they didn't know how much it would be (good) for them too."

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