For new and shy students, lunchtime can be the most stressful part of the school day. It’s no secret that anxiety over the prospect of sitting alone can be particularly terrifying in high school—a time when many feel the pressure to belong to a group.
For the 3,400 students at Boca Raton Community High School at least, these lunchtime worries are a thing of the past. Thanks to a group of four teens familiar with the trials and tribulations of the lunchroom fray, nobody sits alone at this Florida school any more.
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Early this year the students formed a group called We Dine Together, and it’s based around the idea that relationships are built around a table. Every Tuesday, the group (which has swelled to more than 60 members, the Sun Sentinel reports) gathers to eat pizza, share poetry, talk politics, play games, plan community service hours and just hang out.
"No kid should eat alone," Denis Estimon, a senior who is one of the club's leaders told the Sun Sentinel. "There are so many problems in this world and the only thing that can solve it is relationships."
Estimon, who reportedly emigrated from Haiti in the first grade, knows what it’s like to have to eat alone. He’s all too aware of the social and economic issues that divide American lunchrooms.
"One side is the free lunch kids, the (kids with disabilities). The other side would be the student leadership, the kids that have money," he told the Sun Sentinel.
So Estimon, who says he got the idea to start We Dine Together while taking classes at Propel, a non-profit that helps at risk kids get ahead in school, and with three other friends started passing out fliers for a lunch group. In no time, it took off.
"I see coming together in one room Latinos, black, white, some students that are Irish, Haitian students — all over the map. They have one common goal and it's to make friends and understand each other," teacher Jordan Hernandez told the Sentinel. "They bridge this chasm between students. It's not just about eating pizza together but how we do life with one another."