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School-wide event encourages empathy

Senior Leo Jackson is enthusiastic about her role as a student leader for Breaking Down the Walls this year. Photo by Taylor Wohlgemuth

Students are expected to have a breakthrough in relating to their peers during this week’s school-wide event.

According to Bear River Principal Christopher Roberts, Breaking Down the Walls (BDTW) is held at Bear River every other year, as well as being put on by other schools in the Nevada Joint Union High School District. The last time it took place on the Bear River campus was in the spring of 2018.

The school is broken up randomly into four groups of students and staff members, and the program is run accordingly four times, once a day for Tuesday through Friday. Its website, ‘Learning for Living,’ says that BDTW is designed to “unify, empower, and engage every student to create a positive and supportive campus culture.” 

Principal Roberts gave another official perspective of what the event’s all about.

“Breaking Down the Walls is an opportunity for students to learn a little more about their peers and themselves through a very interactive and collaborative process,” he said.

Several students were chosen to be ‘leaders’ for the event, helping to guide their peers throughout the experience. Principal Roberts explained how this selection process functioned. 

“The conversation of leader selection started with the department chairs at our department chair meeting,” he said. “We then extended the conversation to include all staff and they were asked to submit names of students they felt would make great leaders. We tried to include students that stood out as leaders on campus and then some that we saw having potential to be great leaders if given the opportunity.” 

Junior Elaina Wargala, who is going to be a leader for this year’s program, talked about her first encounter with the event her freshman year.

“It was really sad, honestly, everyone got really depressed afterwards, but I think it was really cool to see how many people are going through the same thing that you’re going through,” she said.

She went on to explain what the reasoning is behind having student leaders, and how they help the experience run more smoothly. 

“The leaders are supposed to make students feel comfortable, and it’s a lot easier [for us] to make people feel comfortable because we’re all around the same age and we go to the same school, so it feels a lot more at home instead of some random people we don;t even know that are workers at the program,” Wargala said.

Senior Leo Jackson talked about her own memories from BDTW, before describing why she, too, chose to be a leader this year. 

“It’s a day where you get to be closer to your peers emotionally, learn more about them and their experiences,” she said. “It’s emotional, but it’s also uplifting in a weird way… I just want to be able to be there and help people.” 

For the freshmen and sophomores, as well as any transfer students who haven’t yet been a part of the school-wide team-building activity, students and staff offered advice for how to get the most out of the day. 

“You will get out of Breaking Down the Walls with what you put into it,” said Principal Roberts. “If you come in with a closed mind, having already decided that it’s a waste of your time, that’s exactly what it’ll be. In my experience, the students and staff that come in with an open mind, and a desire to leave the day a better person than when they started, they are those that get the most out of it.” 

“Just be very open minded,” said Wargala, similarly to Principal Roberts. “It might seem silly some of the stuff that they have us do, but if you have a bad attitude about it it’s going to be a bad time, so just have a good attitude for it and just don’t be too cool for it.”

Griffen Dresbach-Hill, a sophomore, talked about what he has heard about the program from others, and what he’s looking forward to experiencing himself. 

“I’ve heard it’s a way to understand people more, and understand where they’re coming from, [because] we might not know what they’ve been through,” he said. “I’m definitely excited for it, because it’s always cool to get to know where someone else is coming from, and I feel like you can make tighter connections between people and make new friends.” 

Principal Roberts also offered advice to upperclassmen who have already done BDTW once before. 

“A lot happens in two years of high school, whether it be school related or something personal (family issues, personal issues),” he said. “… My hope would be that the experienced students would try and find a nugget of something new or a nugget of wisdom that they can apply to their lives. I would also hope that those experienced students would be helpful to the presenter… and those new students participating for the first time. Try and help them get the most out of it.”

He gave a final word of appreciation for what the event has the potential to do, and made a note to students that they’re a vital part of making a change in a school atmosphere.

“So to you, students, I would say, if you find yourself not enjoying Breaking Down the Walls, look inward and make sure you have the right attitude,” he said. “This program has the ability to move an entire school and community in a very positive direction!”

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School-wide event encourages empathy