New Hope-Solebury Middle School Hosts Challenge Day To Foster Empathy, Inclusion

This is the second year students took part.

Credit: Karla Donohoe

Earlier this month, New Hope-Solebury Middle School conducted its second Challenge Day,

School officials said the program is a transformative initiative for seventh graders aimed at strengthening peer connections and fostering inclusive, safe spaces within the school community.

The day-long event was filled with a mix of high-energy games and meaningful discussions. It engaged students, teachers, and staff in activities designed to build empathy and create a supportive community atmosphere.

Dr. Erik Pedersen, the school’s principal, pointed out the significance of the program in achieving the school’s educational goals.

“We are finding unique opportunities to foster students’ development and fostering a culture of respect and acceptance in our school. This is vital to creating a learning environment where all students can thrive and will give them critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives,” Pedersen said.

Last year’s pilot of the program garnered positive feedback from students.

According to an anonymous survey, only 27% of students felt aware of their peers’ life experiences before the event, a figure that jumped to 66% post-Challenge Day.

Students shared powerful reflections, with one noting, “I learned that we all face challenges and have more in common than we think.”

Another student shared, “Everybody is fighting their own battles and dealing with their own suffering. Don’t be quick to judge others or put them into a box. Reach out to them, support them, love them. Be a friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out, to stand up, and say something.”

The program was targeted at seventh graders and played a critical role during a transitional year.

Credit: Karla Donohoe

“They have moved beyond the elementary framework and settled into our middle school building, and are also starting to confront new challenges in navigating peer relationships,” said social worker Christyn Golden. “By offering the program to seventh graders, it gives our team members another year to build upon what they learned from the experience.”

Founded in 1987, Challenge Day has involved more than 1.2 million youth and adults in 2,700 schools and organizations globally.

The Challenge Day program is led by trained facilitators who guide participants through exercises that reveal how barriers are formed and how to cultivate a sense of community.

Assistant Principal Anthony Barth praised the initiative.

“Having personally witnessed the powerful, lasting impact this day has on our students, I am always so grateful that a new cohort gets to experience a day of belonging and camaraderie that we can then build upon through our School Wide Positive Behavior Support programming efforts,” said Barth.

The inclusion of Challenge Day at New Hope-Solebury Middle School is part of a broader district strategy focused on addressing the social-emotional needs of students, officials said.

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