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by Samie Hartley
Jul 15, 2010
“Sure, I have a nice house; I have nice clothes. But if you really knew me, you’d know that I don’t want any of that stuff, and it wasn’t until my family moved into that nice house that we grew apart.”
This candid confession from Freedom High School graduate Leikin Poppino airs several times per day on MTV, previewing the new reality series “If You Really Knew Me,” a behind-the-scenes look at how students react when they start to shed their campus personas and start talking about who they really are.
The show’s debut episode, which airs Tuesday, July 20 at 11 p.m., spotlights Freedom High School and the school’s Challenge Day event held last August. Poppino, who was a senior at the time of filming, is one of five students profiled in the Freedom episode. Future episodes will feature other high schools from around the country.
“‘If You Really Knew Me’ is an incredibly authentic and compelling docu-series that takes us on a 24-hour journey through a high school’s social transformation,” said MTV President of Programming Tony DiSanto. “It shows us what happens when kids from various cliques decide to break down the walls that divide them and commit to change.”
Principal Erik Faulkner said Freedom has hosted Challenge Day, a nationwide program designed to inspire students to put aside their differences and treat each other with kindness and respect, for more than 10 years, and he fully supports the program. So when Challenge Day organizers approached him about featuring Freedom in the new series, he knew the experience could make a positive impact on the student body.
“(Challenge Day) seemed to bring a wide variety of students together,” Faulker said. “Students could see more of their similarities rather than their differences. Barriers were reduced and broken. In fact, after the day, many students pledged to seek out a wider variety of students, encourage other students to be helpful and compassionate to one another, and bring about positive change.”
The impact of Challenge Day was so well received by the student body last year that students formed a Be the Change Club to keep the lessons of Challenge Day fresh in the minds of students throughout the year. Faulkner said the students were still promoting the Challenge Day message on the last day of school, and he expects the Be the Change Club to exert a presence when classes resume on July 26.
Freedom Leadership Advisor Dana Johnston, who is excited about the show, agreed that the student body took the messages of Challenge Day to heart. The Freshmen Leadership-in-Training students created Freedom For Change, a program where leadership students conduct similar Challenge Day activities in classrooms to keep the topic alive on campus.
“‘If You Really Knew Me’ illuminates the power and strength that young people have when they share and connect in a vulnerable and authentic way,” said Challenge Day Chief Executive Officer Jaime Polson.
For Freedom High School, Challenge Day has left a lasting impression, according to Faulkner. He sees more students opening up and interacting with students they didn’t associate with prior to Challenge Day. The school has also experienced a decline in disciplinary actions, and Faulkner believes Challenge Day plays a big part in that.
“I do think our school has cliques, like most every other school,” said Faulkner. “However, I see our students willing to challenge themselves and the status quo for the better.”