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Point Break Unifies Students
Hoping to build on the success of last year's Be the Change-Challenge Day event, Escalon High School hosted a two-day Point Break program Wednesday and Thursday at the Escalon Community Center.

Involving a couple hundred students this year, the program was put on through the Point Break organization and focuses on breaking down the barriers that separate students, whether it's by race, economics or religion.

Goal is to bring the entire Escalon High student body - and, in a larger way, the community - together for the good of all.

Volunteer facilitators, many of them teachers but also representatives from the community at large, were on hand for the two days, working with the students in small groups, as well as taking part in team building activities that involved the group as a whole.

After some 'ice breaker' activities to start the day, the smaller groups then delved into more in-depth topics, from peer pressure to meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

"Everyone as a child learns the life lesson," Point Break facilitator Joel Wurgler told the students. "No matter what the wound, whether it is emotional or physical, in order for it to heal, you must come clean first ... always."

Coming 'clean' for many students meant admitting fears, failures, even admitting that they had done or said something hateful toward another person.

Taking part in an exercise called 'cross the line,' the students were able to see that they aren't alone, as each crossed the line when something said proved to be true about them.

"If you crossed the line today, you came clean," Wurgler said. "It's the beginning of the healing process."

Students were also able to talk about what they learned, using an 'open mic' ending to the program to share their thoughts. It was also the opportunity to apologize to someone - in the room or out of it - that they had wronged or injured in some way, through words or deeds.

"I don't have to be so closed," Armando Becerra told his peers of how he grew from the experience.

Jenna Price also felt it was worthwhile.

"I liked the breaking down of barriers that separate us," she said.

Ultimately, organizers said, it is that breaking down of the barriers that will help the students stop forming the cliques that can be so destructive and isolationist on high school campuses.

Wurgler and Daniel Torres of Point Break were on hand to oversee the two-day event.

"I want to thank everybody for being here and now we take this back to our high school," Gabriel Albor said. "We need to put aside differences and talk to each other."

Suggestions also included offering a smile to all you see, since you never know who might need that bright spot in their day.

"What I'll take with me is that nobody's better than anybody else in here," added Shawn Focht.

For Be the Change and Point Break advocate Stephanie Collinsworth, continuing the work that started last year is important.

"This is what Be the Change does, shows you there is something bigger and better out there," the EHS teacher said in offering her thoughts to the more than 100 participants at the Community Center on Thursday. "One thing I'll take with me is to slow down."

She also said she now knows how important it is to listen, to take time for others, and she offered her room as a sounding board for anyone that needs it.

"Room 42. Anytime," she said. "Even if we've never spoken ... room 42."

Building a sense of camaraderie, the goal is to have those students take that back to the campus and start spreading it. With well over 200 students taking part over the two days, there's a good base to start from, said counselor Sandy Pendley.

"It was excellent, it was wonderful, we had 126 today (Thursday) and 108 on Wednesday," Pendley said.

Volunteer Irene Laugero said she was overwhelmed by the trust shown in such a short period of time.

"It's amazing how they want to open up," she said of students. "I met everyone in my group for the first time today and they opened up. Not only do they need to, they want to."

Talking about the issues can only help, organizers said, and it's those lines of communication that they want to keep open.

Several students that took part in last year's Challenge Day were on hand as support for the new students going through and Anna Baglione said Point Break just reinforced all she learned before.

"After Challenge Day last year, I didn't look at the world the same," she said, addressing her peers. "We're all so different ... yet the same."

Officials said their goal is to offer Point Break on a regular basis, hopefully at least once a year, trying to reach each student on campus before they graduate from high school.