CBS Sunday Morning is my favorite show on television. I know it doesn’t always make me laugh like “Speechless,” or satisfy my interest in political intrigue like “Scandal,” but what it does do is make me think. Each Sunday I know that I will learn three new things, that I will likely get angry about one thing and that Steve Hartman’s story will make me cry. He did one a few months ago about the water quality on Native American reservations that was a catalyst for change and he has done a few on veterans. Given my U.S. history background, those touch my heart. And there have been a few love stories along the way that give me hope for a long marriage. But one I saw recently must be shared so it can help our students.
At a high school in Boca Raton, four students remembered what it was like to sit alone at lunch in a big cafeteria, and they were determined to create a better experience for their classmates by forming a club aptly names #WeDineTogether. Denis Estimon was a Haitian immigrant in first grade, and remembers those feelings of isolation as a new person in a new land, let alone a new school. Allie Sealy, who helped start the club with Denis, recognized that they could make a difference in someone’s day, every day.
The plan is for the club’s members to go out during lunch, recruit these kids who are sitting alone and extend an invitation to eat lunch with them. Their slogan is “relationships are built over the table,” a truism from ancient times. The club also meets weekly at lunch to hang out together, learn how they can engage with those isolated students and just make friends.
It’s these simple gestures that can transform a person’s day or even their life- but can you imagine how this practice of inclusion will transform their school? While bullying continues to ravage schools, #WeDineTogether offers an antidote. The entire character of a place can change as more people join the cause, and fewer people are left to sit on the wall.
That’s where I remember seeing those kids when I taught at PC North- on the wall around the lower commons. As a teacher, it was easy to say hi to the students who were in my class as I passed by, but as a kid I know it would have been hard. As a student myself at PC, I had no idea where those isolated kids went. I was wrapped in my own group of friends. What emotional courage it takes for these students in Boca Raton to do what they’re doing!
I would love to see this club start at a Putnam City high school- or any school really. Check out their Facebook page @wedinetogether. If your school starts one, let me know so we can keep tabs on the efforts.