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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Chaparral Cougars Take Challenge

NEWS                                                                                    Walnut Valley Unified School District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             880 S. Lemon Avenue
November 22, 2013                                                             Walnut, CA 91789

Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
(909)595-1261 ext. 31204

Chaparral Cougars Take Challenge

DIAMOND BAR, CA--One hundred Chaparral Middle School students participated in the new Cougar Challenge workshop held on November 20.

The 7th and 8th graders, along with 18 staff members, met in the gymnasium for the full-day event.

“The Cougar Challenge goal is to break down the barriers of "cliques", create connection with students and staff, and celebrate the diversity on our campus,” said Humanities Teacher Sherry Robertson.

The activities and discussions focused on Chaparral character values, and addressed social issues such as stereotypes and bullying. 

Students were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone in order to fully benefit from the event. 

As a symbol, a foot-wide square was taped on the floor of the gym.

“We’re asking kids to step out of their comfort zone today. If we stay too long it slowly becomes a prison,” Robertson added.

Several ice breakers were held in the morning including a dance party, team games and lots of hugs.

Robertson said she was happy to see every student participating in the high-energy activities.

“It took some students time to warm up, but when they saw everyone else being silly, it made tit safe for them,” she said.

Peter Lee, a 7th grader, said he had been having fun meeting new people. 

“It’s been really fun and we’ve partied a lot this morning,” said 8th grader Bailey Wilson.

Partners opened up sharing an embarrassing moment, what inspires them and their pet peeves.

During the snack break, they talked about their dream life.

Mary Thomas, an 8th grader, said she’d like to become world famous actress in New York.

“I don’t remember thinking that far ahead,” said her small family leader, Jim Reutzel.

“In 8th grade I just looked forward to summer vacation!” He shared that someday he would like to be a travel editor.

“They picked me to participate in the Cougar Challenge because I need to step out of my comfort zone,” said 8th grader Annika White.

“I think I did this today and I’m feeling proud of myself. I’ve danced (and I’ve never danced) and hugged and tomorrow I’m going to hang out with the popular people at lunch!” she said.

After the break, 10 students and a staff advisor formed small families. They chose a name for themselves and even performed a cheer for the other participants.

Then event dropped below the waterline, as Robertson called it. The energy level was about to come down as activities became more personal.

“In society, we tend to characterize people, and unfortunately we sometimes don’t look any further than what that person shows on the outside,” she reminded them.

“A good analogy is that we are like an iceberg. Ten percent of an iceberg sticks out of the water. That is is our image – clothes, hair and things we want people to see. And then other 90% of us, like the iceberg, is under the waterline. This is the real us - the things we the things we don’t talk enough about. And we’re going to talk about it today,” Robertson said.  That list included fears, feelings, insecurities and more.

Each member was asked to complete the sentence, ‘If you really knew me, you would know…” with his or her group.

The members sat quietly, listened and respected each member’s truth.

The event concluded with the Speak Out – students and staff took the microphone to share their thoughts from the day.

“So many kids made apologies and hugged it out. The amazing part was it was all initiated by them – it was such an amazing day,” Robertson said.

Cougar Day participants completed a survey after the event.

“I really liked how everyone was beyond courageous to talk about what they are going through,” said Kyle Joyce, an 8th grader.

“I really liked cross the line and the small families activities. Cross the line let us know we are not as alone as we thought we were and there are people going through the same struggles that we are. The small families let us express our feelings in a small group (so it wasn’t that scary) without being judged. Thank you for this fantastic experience,” said Pilar Alcazar.


The Cougar Challenge began with fast paced activities that included group dances. 

Students paired up for back-to-back hugs during a morning ice breaker. 

Several courageous participants took the microphone and shared their dream life with the group. 

Small groups performed cheers during the Cougar Challenge. 

Humanities teacher and event moderator Sherry Robertson took ideas for the image and real things chart.