SWANTON, OH (WTOL) - In the wake of recent events, uneasy feelings in our schools are at a climax. One local school is doing something to try to lessen the tension and encourage inclusion.
Lunch can be the longest hour of the school day for some kids who feel alone and socially isolated at their school. The Swanton school district operates under open enrollment, meaning that not all of these kids are necessarily neighbors.
For the middle school kids, aged 10 to 14, Thursday's lunch period mixed it up a little to include everyone.
Kevin Heintschel is the school's Intervention Specialist.
"Today what we did is we had all of our students come in. We really didn't tell them what they were walking into other than it's going to be fun and there are going to be some games and so forth. But, it's really about having students sit with people who may be new to them or noticing kids who are sitting by themselves typically," Heintschel explained. "That today, let's make sure that doesn't happen again. So as they're walking in, the students didn't really get to pick who they sat with. It was, you're assigned a color, and sit with someone who has a similar colored post-it note as you."
No One Eats Alone Day is a national campaign working to end social isolation. Coincidentally being very timely,
"It's a really an age range where a lot of decisions are being made, a lot of morals and values are starting to be formed, and it's an important time for us. We really look at our students as the ones who will set those trends for the future," added Heintschel.
This is a once a year event, and is just one part of the school's effort to promote anti-bullying.
"There's conversation starters on the tables, as well as an ending activity where we're asking kids to make a pledge. A pledge moving forward that can be something as simple as, 'I'm going to smile at somebody new today' or, you know, 'I'm going to pick a different partner in math class today,' or just I'm going to be on the lookout for somebody who looks like they're having a rough day and I'm going to try to reach out to them in some way.'" explained Guidance Counselor, Bethany Lopez. "We're trying to get them thinking outside the box a little bit and socializing and enjoying lunch with maybe a group of students who they wouldn't normally choose to sit with. "
Swanton is one of the few schools in northwest Ohio that currently participates in this program.
Administration hopes to inspire other schools to take part in No One Eats Alone Day as well.