The other day a young adult friend and I were talking about Challenge Day, a national program that helps schools break down barriers between student peers as well as between students and adults in order to foster a school climate where everyone feels safe, appreciated and able to be their best selves. It’s an intense day that includes the sharing of personal, often difficult and painful stories, but ultimately leads to the realization that we’re all more alike than different.
My friend and I had each participated in a Challenge Day within the last few years—she as a high school student and I as a community volunteer. Both of us recalled being struck by the number and depth of difficult experiences we heard about from students. It was an eye opener for sure.
Reflecting on that day was a reminder that for way too many people, childhood isn’t the happy time we would like to think it is. And we would do well to practice empathy toward those affected by adverse childhood experiences—or ACEs—so that everyone has the chance to be their best selves.
There is a movement afoot in Michigan and around the nation to raise awareness and action around the effects of ACEs on public health. Michigan’s ACE Initiative is based on research including the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, which shows a direct link between ACEs and negative health outcomes in adulthood. Science tells us that domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness and other forms of toxic stress can negatively alter a child’s genes and brain predisposing them to risky behaviors, chronic health problems and early death.
Grow & Lead is partnering with a number of state and local organizations to host a showing in Marquette of a new documentary film that offers hope and strength to communities in fighting the effects of ACEs. Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope will be shown to the public at Marquette Senior High School Monday, Sept. 25 at 6:30 with a community discussion afterwards. There is no charge, but we ask that you register here.
Much like Challenge Day is to schools, we hope the film and discussion will be a step forward for communities in fostering a climate where everyone feels safe, appreciated and able to be their best selves.