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Changing Times Cougars Craft Cohesive Campus
It has been a few years now since the very first 'Be The Change' program Challenge Day came to Escalon High ... but the waves from that effort continue to ripple through the campus.

In an effort to bring the student body together, to help avoid on-campus conflict and 'clique' segregation, Be The Change forced EHS students to look at themselves and each other in a new light, breaking down walls that they felt divided them.

Over the years, the program has evolved and been adapted to fit Escalon's needs and now is offered as a 'Point Break' presentation, which plays on many of the same themes as Be The Change and continues to keep students dedicated to an open and accepting campus.

An active group, the Be The Change Club stages events every other Friday at lunch in the 'quad' and this past week invited students to express their creativity through sidewalk chalk drawings. Limbo contests have been offered, musical entertainment is often featured and the goal is to bring the student body together in a relaxed, informal atmosphere to enjoy lunch and camaraderie on the campus.

President this year is Stephonn Smith Jr., with Doug Gilham as vice president, Miguel Sandoval as secretary, Elizabeth Mendonca as treasurer and event coordinator Jazmin Lopez.

Smith participated in the Be The Change his freshman year - he is now a senior - and said it was life-changing for him.

"My freshman year, I was the student that hated my teachers, hated school, couldn't keep a 2.0," he said of struggling early in his high school career. "My teacher, Ms. (Lara) Travis, recommended me for the program.

"I ended up going and it opened me up ... ever since then I've been part of the group."

Smith said Travis is now his "favorite teacher" and he is still amazed at the change the relatively simple - yet emotionally complex -program made in him. He has also seen that change in others over the years.

"Last year, we rarely had a fight on campus," he pointed out.

Ms. Travis and fellow teacher Jason Collinsworth are co-advisors for Be The Change this year and said they want to keep the group strong, both feeling it has been a good thing for the school.

"We've probably doubled in size since last year," Collinsworth added of the core group that meets to plan events.

Travis, in her first year of advising the group, is looking forward to the assignment.

"I've seen such a positive change in the student body," Travis said. "Stephonn was my student as a freshman, now he's a senior and he's been involved with this program, it has completely changed his life."

Class of 2010 graduate Alicia Chapman will also return periodically to serve as a youth advisor and Collinsworth has been involved in the program since the start.

"It establishes, it further establishes a positive environment at EHS," he added, noting that it's important to reach the students as soon as they arrive as freshmen, building on that acceptance and openness their first year on campus.

There will be two days set aside for the program this year, with all grade levels being invited to participate. Upperclassmen that might not have had the chance to take part in a Challenge Day or Point Break program in the past, as well as the underclassmen will be eligible to attend.

Days set aside for the powerful program are Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.

The club meets every other Friday for a regular session, then hosts the quad activity at lunch on the other Fridays of the month.

Counselor Ray Roncale will be involved with the effort at the high school this year as well.

"My daughter went through this in high school and it was very beneficial," Roncale said. "Some classes need it more than others ... some classes are really together when they come through (the high school), while other classes create togetherness on their own and I really do believe in class personalities."