On Friday, at the center of attention at a middle school in Bergen County was a program that aims to eliminate social isolation and build a culture of belonging.
At the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Teaneck, which was celebrating No One Eats Alone Day, Eyewitness News was there.
Lunchtime can be a very lonely time for far too many students, but a countrywide initiative is aiming to make sure that no one eats alone in the cafeteria at any time.
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The pandemic has caused an increase in social anxiety, and because children were home alone during the outbreak, they suffered not just a loss of educational opportunities but also a stunting of their ability to make friends through interaction.
There were cue cards on the tables to propose themes for discussion, and several ambassadors were monitoring the lunchroom to ensure that the students were engaged in activities that were significant to them.
“You don’t ever want to see somebody being alone and not having someone to talk to because you don’t know what that person is going through, so we like to be kind and spread kindness around to everybody like you would want someone to do to you,” ambassador Syniah Scott said.
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“You don’t ever want to see somebody being alone and not having someone to talk to because you don’t know what that person is going through.”
This is the school’s second year taking part in the program, and according to the principal, participation will continue in the future.
The program, which was developed by the non-profit organization Beyond Differences, is intended to assist students in getting to know one another better and to ensure that all students experience a sense of belonging and acceptance based on who they are.
In-class instruction, engaging exercises, and a creative project centered on empathy are all included.
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Students will emerge from the experience with the tools necessary to become disruptors of social isolation and ambassadors of belonging, according to the event’s organizers.
The school had a citizenship theme going on for the entire month, and this program was a component of that.