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Students Get To Know Each Other Over ‘Mixed-Up’ Lunch

While eating lunch with a random group of peers, Valleywood Middle School eighth-grade classmates discussed what they can’t live without.

“I can’t live without my cell phone,” said Victor Eskew.

“I can’t live without music,” said Reyna Delgado.Seventh-grade student Ashley Hightower looks at her table assignment after drawing a Popsicle stick from Principal Mindy Westra

“I can’t live without shopping,” said Monyavia McSwain.

“I can’t live without my mom and my dad. I’d go crazy without them,” said James Mack.

Prompted by a list of questions, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students talked about their favorite music, TV shows, what they’ve learned lately, talents and memories.

The activity, Mix It Up Day, was organized by Alison Corso and Amelia Reelman, the school’s Kent School Services Network leaders, as a way to dispel stereotypes. The initiative, started by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project a decade ago, aims to reduce prejudice and improve inter-group relations by asking students to break out of their normal social circles and connect with someone new over lunch. Nationwide, 6,128 schools were registered to participate this year.

Eighth-grade student Reyna Delgado takes her turn answering a questionSomething in Common

Corso said the activity gets students out of their comfort zones and encourages them to meet new people, create more unity, and, hopefully, lead to a decrease in bullying. “A lot of people are really divided,” she told students. “We are a lot more similar than we think we are.”

Segregation at the school exists more among cliques than along racial or ethnic lines, Corso said. Though students normally have assigned lunch seats, the divided groups are evident during other parts of the day.

Students drew Popsicle sticks to get their table assignments and picked M&Ms from fun-sized bags. Each color candy matched a question to answer about themselves.

“It was fun,” said seventh-grade student Devon Proper. “I learned a lot about the similarities and differences we have, and the problems we Seventh-grade student Anthony Sanchez chats with KSSN leader Alison Corsohave.”

“It was cool to get to know people,” added seventh-grade student Matthew Semon.

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Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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