A couple of weeks ago I discovered that Oprah has changed times (and networks) in this area and now comes on at 9:00 p.m.--a time when I'm actually home and can watch it if I want to. This past Thursday I did just that, and it was one of the best, most thought-provoking hours I've spent in a long time.
The subject was a program called Challenge Day, designed specifically for high school students but equally suited, in my opinion, for adults. It's a program designed to break down barriers between students of different backgrounds, to minimize clique behavors and bullying.
There were 64 students participating from the school chosen for Oprah's Challenge Day experiment, a racially diverse group featuring a mix of the athletes, the scholars, the most popular kids and the most unpopular ones, the goths, the gays and the chubbies. The program was developed to teach the participants that they were much more alike than different.
One of the first things the students were taught was American Sign Language for "I love you." The kids were encouraged to display that sign whenever they felt moved to show love for one another during the Challenge, and let me tell you, they showed some love. The tears rolled down my face for an hour as I watched these kids become vulnerable, open and honest. You could see the light of understanding dawning in their eyes as they learned the truth about each other.
I started to link you to the Oprah site (it's oprah.com if you want it), but given the time limitations that plague all of us, I think you'd get more out of Challenge Day's own site. Spend a little time there if you can and check out these videos. If you only have time for one, watch "Part 2: Lines that Divide Us." It's a pretty powerful demonstration that none of us is alone.
I know some of you are teachers and others are mothers of school-aged kids. If you haven't heard of Challenge Day before, I hope this brief exposure to it will inspire you to get more information and consider introducing this program to your schools. An experience like this, one that opens minds, can be life altering. I'd like to see it in every high school in the country, and if someone could figure out a way to get adults to participate in a similar program (maybe as a prerequisite for voter registration), I think we'd all be better off.
If you saw this Oprah show or have first-hand knowledge of this program, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Until I have solid evidence otherwise, I'll have to agree with Oprah: "This is how we change the world."