D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) – A bunch of enthusiastic students raced into the gym Monday morning. Many of them had never even met. Yet, they learned to step out of their comfort zone and share the most intimate details about their teenage troubles. The meet and greet was part of the first Challenge Day at D'Iberville Middle School.
"I want you to reach out to as many people in this room, a huge smile, a high-five and say what's up? Shake hands and make new friends," said one of the leaders.
"We're going to talk about stuff like all the drama that goes down at school every single day that nobody is talking about," said another leader Jyoti Subramanian. "I'm talking about stuff like I am tired of walking down the hallways and having people I don't even know give me dirty looks."
Through fun activities and candid conversations, the students got a chance to talk about their feelings and issues that may seem too sensitive or uncomfortable.
"To cry, to laugh, to get excited, to feel sad, to process stuff that they're going through in their life which they often don't have a chance to do, especially at school," said Subramanian.
The 90 students in the program came from diverse backgrounds. Some were considered at-risk.
"We picked out all the bullies. We picked out targets. And then we picked out leaders," said school counselor Bonnie Jarvis.
"A lot of children are victims of abuse, either emotional or physical. That is addressed. Teen suicide is addressed, cliques, peer pressures," said Celeste Oglesby, President of the Junior Auxiliary of Biloxi-Ocean Springs. The organization sponsored the national program.
The students learned to overcome bullying, rumors, racism and hatred.
"It's just become the cultural norm to treat each other like crap basically in the hallways. We're presenting a whole different definition of cool," said Subramanian.
And they focused on ways to build friendships, respect and tolerance.
"They make apologies to each other at the end of the day. They declare how they want to be different in the world and they're just like full of light, full of life and they're off," said Subramanian.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Challenge Day program will be offered at Ocean Springs High School.