For the sixth year, Black Hills held Perception Day, an event centered around understanding and uniting students from all different backgrounds and grades. As head of the committee, I had the opportunity to coordinate and lead the event.
At the start of the day, when students first arrived, the focus was centered around getting comfortable with one another. Mr. Heywood, the teacher who is known for his work with welcoming incoming freshman at link day, was the leader of the ice breakers. After running around, playing games and breaking a sweat, Perception Day transitioned into watching a video about gratitude. In time for Thanksgiving, the video exemplified the benefits of showing gratitude. The people interviewed were first given a happiness test to observe their level of happiness prior to the experiment. They were then asked to write about the person who has made the biggest impact in their life. After writing their thoughts and feelings down, they were asked to call that person. It was evident that writing your feelings down is easier than having to express your feelings aloud.. However, those who called and expressed their appreciation aloud experienced a giant leap in happiness.
Next, Olivia Giglio, a speaker from Safe Place, an organization that strives to put an end to sexual and domestic violence, educated the group. The organization advocates for personal and societal change through crisis intervention and education. Gigilo started the discussion by asking who has ever had an open conversation about sexual assault. And the answer was primarily no. Throughout her discussion, she talked about the meaning of consent and the seriousness of sexual assault, such as why people think it occurs, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.
After taking a small break, the students were then asked to pick a partner that they don’t know well or at all. In the pairs, the partners were asked to keep eye contact. While doing so, one of the partners is asked a series of questions while the other person sits and listens without being able to respond. The questions were intended to make people open up about themselves and their lives. The purpose of doing this was to get into a vulnerable state, being asked very personal questions and telling then to a person that can only listen makes a person feel scared and defenseless, but at the same time, opening up in that kind of way rarely happens and sharing those thoughts with a stranger can be a lot easier than sharing them with someone you know. Also, they know that their partner is giving them their undivided attention by having unwavering eye contact and a listening ear.
Then, students were advised to divide in half and spread into two lines facing each other. The students were then asked to cross the line if the question asked pertains to them. People were allowed to open up about themselves without having to speak. The questions were all across the spectrum, from “have you ever failed a test?” to “have you experienced the effects of alcoholism in your family?” A lot of people were very brave and opened up about their lives. Everyone could see how different we all are in what experiences have shaped our lives, but at the same time people could see that they were not alone. It showed the students that we are more alike than we are different.
After that, Giglio then gave students a perspective on empathy. She spoke of the importance of being able to understand what another person is experiencing without actually going through it, just to listen and support one another. Also, she spoke of the effects of bullying and how important it is for people to be open of one another and show kindness.
Finally, the day ended with the chance for students to open up about their own challenges and life experiences. Perception Day aimed to teach Black Hills students how important it is to treat people with respect and to always be kind to one another. If you missed the first Perception Day or if you want to go again, the next one is on Wednesday, March 15.
Perception Day participants (Photo credit: Dale Reeves, BHHS)
By Jordan Tarrow