With increased attention on bullying and loneliness in the schools, the Oakdale Junior High School Leadership Club sponsored an event Friday, Sept. 22 during both seventh and eighth grade lunches aimed at bringing students together.
The “No One Eats Alone” campaign brought students together with ice-breaker questions and tasks that encouraged students to meet up with people outside of their usual circles to find common ground.
Lillian Crippen, a seventh grader in the Leadership Club said, “The idea is for all the kids not to be bullied and to make new friends. A lot of kids are by themselves at lunch.”
Crippen admitted that since the beginning of the school year, she’d often seen kids eating by themselves but she hoped this new campaign made some positive change.
Drawing students together with tasks such as finding someone with the same name or the same hair color, then sharing information such as happy or sad moments created a fun environment for the students as they discovered new friends and reacquainted themselves with former friends.
“It’s really about promoting social awareness,” Leadership advisor Erin Benbow shared, adding that the campaign coincides with Bullying Awareness Month.
The first-time campaign event seemed to be working as students laughed, danced to music and socialized outside of their comfort zone, which was exactly what the coordinators were hoping for.
Seventh grader Kirsten Rehling was all smiles as she said, “You get to meet new people and make new friends. I’d say it’s very fun.”
With bullying being a hot topic in the news, many schools are remaining proactive in their stance against the destructive and harmful social practice. Students are even getting in on the movement by creating apps that encourage inclusiveness, such as the Sit With Us app available for iOS devices.
The app, created by a 16-year-old student in Sherman Oaks, California, who suffered bullying and social rejection her entire seventh grade year, released in September of last year with great success. The app helps students find other students with similar interests and then connects them through Open Lunch invitations.
OJHS Language Arts teacher Jenessa Menge said apps such as Sit With Us are creating a more inclusive environment for students using technological connections.
“I think the groups that form today are interest-based, not popularity-based and that’s a good change,” Menge said. “The bullying isn’t as bad as it used to be.”
Although change typically comes slowly, with schools and proactive students focused on promoting healthy connections, those important changes seem to be happening more swiftly than in the past.
The Oakdale Joint Unified School District maintains a zero-tolerance policy for bullying on campus. Parents are urged to contact their school site administrator if they feel their child has been bullied or harmed in any way during school hours.