East, West Students Learn to 'Be The Difference'

East, West Students Learn to 'Be The Difference'
Posted on 12/05/2017
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photos of students participating in activity for Be the DifferenceFor sophomores at Lakota East, the recent “Be the Difference Day” will be markedly different than any other day in their high school career.

For seven years, the school has partnered with Changepoint Learning, a Tri-state provider of experiential learning programs that promote self-reflection and peer understanding in area schools. At the high school level, they call it “Be the Difference.”

With the help of more than 120 adult volunteers, the day-long program is sponsored by the school’s PTSO. Over the years, the school has been able to expand its reach to include entire grade levels. All 720 sophomores, divided over three days, participated this November.

Throughout the day, students participate in small and large group activities, each designed to give students new perspectives about their peers and the oftentimes unseen challenges they’re facing in their lives. The activities aren’t lessons in right or wrong, good or bad, normal or abnormal. In fact, according to Lakota East counselor and program coordinator Michelle Kohler, they provide lessons in empathy.

“The whole idea is to get them to see that you don’t know just by looking at someone what really goes on in their life,” Kohler said of the program, which she says has been a major contributor to the positive culture students and staff have built at East. “It opens up their eyes to different experiences and preconceived notions and in some cases, helps them realize that they’re not alone.”

A product of that collaborative culture, this year’s program was stamped with student input. Members of the Student Advisory Council worked with the facilitator to infuse the “E + R = O” theme that’s guiding the school community this year.

“That idea was entirely student-driven,” said East Principal Suzanna Davis. “That kind of action is a wonderful testament to our students taking ownership in making our school the best it can be.”

Lakota West will bring the same program to its students in early 2018. The school is seeking volunteers to assist on any of the three days: Jan. 5, Jan. 29 and Feb. 5. Contact Diane Grimes or Michael Anderson for more information.