Challenge Project Endangers Mental Health

Dianda Giles, Staff Writer

Jamie Donohoe’s 2nd-semester seniors must prepare a speech about overcoming personal challenges and present it in front of their peers.

It sounds like a good idea, in theory.

Dubbed the “Challenge Project”, Donohoe’s students were informed of the assignment during 1st-semester finals week. The goal of the project is to help students embrace obstacles and learn from them in a positive way.

“Basically, everyone has a voice in their head that’s telling them ‘No’… the challenge project is an opportunity to put yourself in a position to fight those feelings and overcome them,” said Donohoe.

In reality, however, it creates discomfort for the students involved in a time of heightened concern for mental health.

As a senior myself, I can say with confidence that the last thing I would want to do is share something vulnerable about myself in front of a room full of people in order to earn a grade.

One of Donohoe’s students, senior Jessica Henningsen, said, “We are graded on this project, so I think that lots of students feel pressured to talk about a ‘big’ issue in order to ensure a higher grade.”

Senior Bridget Ross said, “I’m nervous for my presentation because I have to talk about something that is a sensitive subject in my life. But, it’s the biggest challenge I have to face so I feel obligated to talk about it.”

Yet the project seems to conflict with the recent moves by administration to reduce student stress and foster a safe campus environment.  I believe this project is actually detrimental to student wellness.

Students have revealed information regarding sexuality, mental illness, or childhood trauma in past iterations of the project. While students are expected to uphold a “safe space” during the presentations and keep information from the presentations confidential, every year, news about what is shared is spread to fellow students.

Thus, the project is highly invasive of student privacy.

Classmate senior Zachary Donner said, “I feel mixed about the project– personally, I think that it’s a good way to develop ourselves. But I can understand how some people might be hesitant to share in front of a group.”

Although the Challenge Project may be well intended, requiring students to make themselves vulnerable in front of their peers endangers their mental health.

I believe it’s time to remove this project from the curriculum.