Cougars challenge social barriers

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“There was a huge variety of people at Cougar Challenge and I think that made for a good representation of the school,” junior Megan Birgy said. “Even a lot of teachers were there. It was interesting to see our teachers as fellow people.”

Michelle Chong, Co-Editor in Chief

A feeling of unity was palpable in the air as students and faculty alike gathered in the ninth grade gym. The audience represented various clubs, sports and groups as well as those who do not participate in any after school activity. The event consisted of games and activities that encouraged students to listen to each other as well as to show support. There was only one goal in mind: to remind students that at the end, no matter  the differences in skin color, personality or skill set that they are still Cinco Ranch Cougars.

The Cougar Challenge took place on Monday, Dec. 3. For senior Alexis Frankson, who organized Cougar Challenge, the main purpose of the event was to raise awareness on how much words and bullying could impact each other.

Along with Frankson, seniors Abbie Gardner and Jesse Sparks led the event and organized the activities and games the students would be playing. Activities included Ships and Sailors, Walk the Line and “If you really knew me”.

“Through these activities, the Cougar Challenge shows students and faculty members that they are not as different as they may feel,” Frankson said. “That everyone has struggles, and though we are all unique, we have a lot in common, if we could just let down our barriers and start making an effort to get to know each other.”

One of the goals for the event was to break down barriers between students and the faculty of the school as well as encourage all to see each other as human beings.

“In a school with [over] 3000 people, no one should ever feel alone,” Frankson said. “The Cougar Challenge is helping to raise awareness to the attitude issue we have at Cinco and encourage students to step outside their comfort zone and reach out to those who are getting lost in the crowded hallways.”

Students invited to go were chosen for various reasons and some were nominated by their peers to attend. According to junior Megan Birgy, initially she was not excited about having to miss some classes in order to attend but found that going to the event was more than worth it.

“There was a huge variety of people at Cougar Challenge and I think that made for a good representation of the school,” Birgy said. “Even a lot of teachers were there. It was interesting to see our teachers as fellow people.”

According to Frankson, the best moment of the day for her was watching the students interact with each other.

“In the gym that day, the social barriers went away and for a few hours, people stopped defining themselves as ‘a band kid’,  ‘a basketball player’, or even as ‘a math teacher’,” Frankson said. “Everyone was just a cougar. That’s why it is the “Cougar” Challenge. Because above all, in this school, we are all cougars and we have to let that unify us. It isn’t just for a certain group or type of student, it is for everyone. What we are trying to do is for every Cougar at Cinco, and for those who will be there in the future. Seeing people really buy in to that goal, to make a change, it was incredible.”

This is the second year the Cougar Challenge has been held since its creation last year. Currently, there are plans to have two more Cougar Challenges this year.

“In the future, we hope to not only have students nominated, but to allow them to express and interest and request to come and be a part of it,” Frankson said. “The Cougar Challenge is not a onetime thing either. Though it is still a fairly new thing, and certain things are still being worked out, there will definitely be follow ups with participants to help keep them accountable to the changed that happened that day and to continue forming relationships. Because it is something that is student led, and leadership will change hands as the years go on, I hope for it to grow and adapt to the needs at our school and in the community.”

For senior Kendall Mcelhaney, the Cougar Challenge was an event she was excited to participate in.

“It was really awesome meeting new people and sharing our stories,” Mcelhaney said. “As a collective student body, we all get so wrapped up in all the work we have that we lose real connections with people. Challenge day changed that. It makes you realize that everyone has a story and that what is really important in life won’t be in a textbook, it will be in a friendship formed built on trust and respect.”