Are students up for the ‘Challenge?”
Editor's Note: This is part of the Press Tribune’s ongoing coverage of the Peer Helping program at Roseville High School. See the archive for previous articles.
Are these teens up for the challenge?
Could these 80 freshmen learn how to know others from the inside out? The class was about to take a giant leap in that direction as part of “Challenge Day” on March 7 hosted by Peer Helpers — mainly upper classmen tasked with supporting other students and encouraging an anti-bullying campus atmosphere.
In each class period, Peer Helpers lead a series of ice-breaker activities and team competitions — the human knot, human seat challenge and a taffy pull, which involves trying to pull students linked together across a line.
It’s all lots of fun.
But the mood turns serious. Overhead lights are turned off, the blinds closed. The freshmen in this second period class are told by teacher Valerie Erb to separate into two groups and line up against two walls facing each other. A bright orange line runs down the middle.
“It’s not to put anyone on the spot … It’s really to get you guys to know your campus, to know people from the inside out,” she says.
She tells the students to take a step foward if the statement she reads applies to them.
“Take a step forward if you’ve ever been teased for the way you look,” Erb begins.
Almost all 80 teens do. They step forward to show they’ve been judged by the color of their skin, to indicate they’ve been called too skinny, too big, too short or too tall. Four students move forward because they have lived out of a car or hotel. Several teens take a step because they have lived in a verbally or physically abusive home.
“I’m so sorry,” Erb tells them. “I hope Roseville High feels safe to you guys.”
Fifteen students show they’ve seriously considered suicide and 17 have been teased by someone in this very class. Girls step forward if they’ve ever been pressured sexually. Almost all the guys step forward because they’ve been told it’s not OK to cry.
Then the challenge: Erb has the students step forward if they’re willing to be kinder to others.
“If you’re not one of the people that’s hurting, then great, because then you can become one of the people helping,” she says.
Every single student takes that final step.
Afterward, the teenagers separate for “circle time,” where senior and Peer Helper Nick DesRosier leads one group in a discussion about the previous activity.
“I don’t want you guys to have this hurt in your life, when you’re so young,” he says. “You don’t deserve it.”
Nick has experienced plenty of hurt in his life, but he’s become someone who helps others. He recently aided freshman Carmen Pacheco, who was upset about a guy picking on her. She sought someone to speak to and found Nick and fellow Peer Helper Lacey Lowrie.
“It’s a relief to know people are there for you,” Carmen says.