This club is ending loneliness at their school by making friends during lunch.
It’s no secret that high school can be a daunting experience where even the most social people have a tough time finding the right group where they fit it. For new students, this experience can be much worse, as they attempt to join clubs or groups with teens that have already known each other for years.
Senior Denis Estimon at Boca Raton High School remembers when he was a new student, way back in first grade, after he immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and didn’t know a single person. He said that one of the worst times for him was during break and lunch, when groups would congregate and he would be left sitting alone, feeling isolated.
“It’s not a good feeling. You can’t go through life alone,” Estimon said.
Some students at Boca High first volunteered at a non-profit called Propel, which stands for People Reaching out to Provide Education & Leadership. When a group of friends from the organization wanted to find a way to promote inclusion at their huge high school that has a population of over 3,400 students, they turned to the most social part of the day: lunch.
They decided to form another club called We Dine Together. In an effort to combat the feeling of isolation that many students feel during lunch, the group decided to start approaching students that were sitting alone so that they could get to know them and become a friendly face in the crowd for them. They typically walk up to students and introduce themselves, stopping to chat and maybe even offering them food, but their main goal is to just make some type of connection with the student.
Many times, the club members extend an invitation to join the We Dine Together Club for pizza on Wednesdays, where the students have more opportunities to meet new people and work on team building and self-esteem exercises.
“Even we don’t rope them in, I still say ‘hey’ to them every time I see them, and maybe that is how we connect with them,” Estimon said. “At first we didn’t know if we were just feeding kids pizza. By Thanksgiving we were getting great feedback and we started to see we were doing something here.”
In a short video put together by CBS, reporter Steve Hartman stated that the club has helped build over one hundred relationships since the club’s inception at the beginning of this school year. What’s great about the program is that it not only encourages friendships between the people that interact but it can even give others the confidence to start talking to new people. Estimon said that the less students that are alone, the less likely there is to be bullying at the school because bullies tend to target those with no support system. Hartman told Estimon while interviewing him for the show,
“Anti-bullying campaigns bring awareness, but don’t show kids what to do about it. This is a practical solution.”
Hartman also said that this idea, whether it’s joining someone for lunch or even just starting a conversation with someone on the street, could be applied by adults as well. Estimon said that, ideally, he would like to see other schools take on this club and start chapters all across the country.
Watch the video below to see We Dine Together Club in action.