By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER – It is ironic that in this age of constant connectivity through technology real human connections are becoming rarer especially, for youth. That is why Wilson Middle School is hosting their first No One Eats Alone Day this Friday, Feb. 15, along schools in all 50 states.
The special event is part of a new, year-long social skills curriculum called Beyond Differences. Wilson heard about the program last spring and began incorporating its teachings this school year. The main goal of the initiative this is ending social isolation among middle school students. Wilson’s counselor Alex Ericson says he is seeing cell phones and social media become more popular among kids. He added that kids today are getting cell phones as early as fourth grade meaning by the time they get to sixth grade at Wilson they’ve already been plugged in for a few years.
“It is positive and negative, and we see isolation on both ends of the spectrum,” Ericson said.
The curriculum is being funneled through Wilson’s ASB leadership classes taught by Yesenia Rojas. The lesson plans which are included in this program are taught to those students which are already taking the role of leaders on campus, and many of the lessons focus on empathy.
“It is kind of this foundation that we are a team,” Ericson said. “No one acts alone, no one communicates alone.”
Members of the leadership classes have been learning how to recognize a classmate either isolating themselves or by their classmates. They have been taught through the lessons to approach a student and invite them to join them with the hope they will become more comfortable interacting with students.
This single day event is when, not only the leadership students, but all students goes out and invites someone to eat with them.
Beyond Differences is a national program which has inspired a culture and behavioral shift at the middle schools and high schools around the country. The program uses three, one-day events during the year with lessons leading up to each one. The No One Eats Alone day is geared toward making friends during lunch time. According to Beyond Differences it is one of the most difficult parts of the school day.
Earlier in the year Wilson celebrated the Know Your Classmates Day. Beyond Differences’ mission was to explore youth’s identity, belonging, and to recognize stereotypes in a modern classroom filled with multi-cultural and -faith backgrounds.
On April 16, Beyond Differences host their final day, Be Kind Online. This day is focused on creating inclusive communities online, and teaches students how to respond to digital gossip and reduce social isolation.
“It hits different areas through out the year, but all of it keeps the one mission in mind,” Ericson said.