WARREN TWP. – Challenge Day, started in 2002 as a day-long, interactive empathy-building and communication program offered annually for a group of 100 sophomores, juniors and seniors at Watchung Hills Regional High School will be held this year Thursday, Nov. 12, at the school.

The day is organized by Student Assistance Counselors Julie Kumpf and Gwen Blake.

“Challenge leaders, including teachers and community members, guide participants through a day of thought-provoking games, activities and discussions to address teen issues, such as bullying, alienation and self-destructive behavior,” said Kumpf. “Activities are designed to increase respect, empathy and healthy emotional expression among students.”

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Added Blake, “We have hosted Challenge Day at Watchung Hills annually for the past 13 years, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many students have called it the best day of their lives.”

The Student Assistance Counselors said the “challenge” referred to in the program title is not as it might be used in referring to a “competition.” Instead, it is an empathy-building exercise, a way to explore anti-bullying responses, and a communication and community-building experience.

Participation in Challenge Day requires parent permission. The first 100 students to turn in signed permission slips are chosen to participate. Permission slips can be obtained from Student Assistance Counselors or from the Guidance Office. Community members who want to participate as adult leaders can get more information from the Guidance Office. Community members who have participated in the past include parents, public officials and clergy.

Because of the trust-building nature of the program, all students and leaders selected for Challenge Day must commit to participate for the entire program, 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Local funding for the Challenge Day program at Watchung Hills is provided through the Youth Service Commission of Warren Township and Green Brook Township, and the Watchung Hills Regional Municipal Alliance (WHRMA).