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Program challenges Tascosa students to change school culture

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AMARILLO - A day out of class turned into an unforgettable, emotional experience for some Tascosa High School students Friday.
 
Cliques, peer pressure, and bullying have always been a part of high school. But today students were challenged to rise up against those issues. Most students were just happy to get out of class for the day, and the tears and hugs were a surprise.

"I was just happy to get out, I didn't want to take my test," one student said to a crowd of peers. "I don't like crying in front of people."

"Be the Change" is a national organization you may know from MTV's series "If You Really Knew Me."

The goal is to change the high school culture of cliques and stereotyping, to one respect and unity.

"Racism, sexism, gender inequality, bullying, sexual harassment, 100 students out there saying 'we don't want this on our campus,' the program spreads to many more students. It's the ripple effect," said Brandi Reed with Family Support Services.

180 students from freshmen to juniors were chosen randomly from a hat to ensure the group reflects the diversity of Tascosa High; all with different races, different backgrounds, and different interests. But after today, school counselor Mandy Abernathy hopes they all have one thing in common.

"Hopefully with training these kids, with having them going through this experience, we're going to walk the halls and we're going to have a great feeling of embracing each other," Abernathy said.
      
"Challenge Day" is a nationally recognized program, winning awards from the Juvenile Justice System and being featured in Emmy award-winning documentaries.
      
It took a $10,000 grant through Amarillo's Family Support Service to bring the program to Amarillo's largest high school.

"It's an expensive program, but it's going to be well worth it," Abernathy said.

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