A Springfield school participated in a nationwide initiative for inclusiveness for elementary and middle school children last week.
At Snyder Park Elementary School, Friday was No One Eats Alone Day. Beyond Differences is a national nonprofit that wants “all kids to feel included, valued and accepted by their peers,” according to its website.
The group was founded by the parents of Lili Smith. She was born with a cranial facial syndrome and was socially isolated during her middle school years, according to its website. She died when she was 15 and teenagers in her community decided to honor her by discussing social isolation.
“This is important because research shows those that are isolated or alone are prone to hypertension and high cholesterol and other health issues as adult,” said Darrell Brooks, supervisor for service coordination of the Buckeye Health Plan, one of the organizers of the events at Sndyer Park. “The key to this is acceptance and inclusion.”
The students participated in an assembly before lunch. They watched videos and had a question-and-answer session to discuss social isolation and what they can do to avoid it.
Student Brooklyn Bishop, 12, said she wants to make a difference.
“It makes me feel bad for them because I don’t like seeing people being left out because that is also a form of bullying,” Bishop said. “Usually, I try to include them and ask them to sit with me but if I can’t and there’s no room, I try to do something later about it.”
She’ll ask if they want to do something at recess or if they want to work on a project together.
“I feel like everyone should get a chance to have friends and I used to be bullied and left out and I hate the feeling and I know where it comes from,” Bishop said.
Snyder Park Principal Cheryl Farnbaugh said No One Eats Alone fits in with the school district’s positive behavior support program.
“Every week we get awards and rewards, quarterly awards and rewards to make sure kids understand the positive behaviors they are displaying turns into successful academic performance in the classroom,” Farnbaugh said.
Sometimes when she walks into the cafeteria, she sees children sitting by themselves and it makes her sad.
“I will actually, very quietly, go over and ask some other kids and say ‘Hey, I see this child is eating alone. How about if you guys pick up your trays and go over and sit and eat with them?” And our kids never hesitate to do that,” Farnbaugh said.
No One Eats Alone is practiced in Springfield, Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Canton school districts in Ohio.