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SHOUT Mixes Up Lunchtime at VSW

news-vsw-mix-it-upSHOUT (Students Helping Out), the Valley Southwoods anti-bullying group, challenged students to mix things up during lunch March 14. VSW students abandoned their usual places in the cafeteria and took a seat next to someone new.

Like most people, high school students can be creatures of habit when it comes to choosing where to sit at lunchtime. They often sit at the same table with the same group of friends. The SHOUT group wanted to bring down those walls.

“Our goal is to have students come in the cafeteria and sit with someone they don’t normally sit with,” said VSW Principal Mitch Kuhnert. “It’s that concept of getting to somebody else and treating others with respect.”

Each table in the cafeteria was numbered and on their way to the lunch line, students were handed a corresponding number and asked to sit at that table. Each table had a list of questions students could use as conversation starters while they ate.

The effort at first made some student uncomfortable, with one ninth grader commenting, ““I think it starts off awkward and then once you start talking it gets better.”

Other reactions were:

“It’s pretty cool.”

“It’s definitely different.”

“I think it will be a fun opportunity to talk to other people.”

“The table questions have been good topics.”

The group will continue its efforts next year, recognizing Mix It Up Day on October 29 when it will be held in schools around the world.

The lunch activity is part of the school’s anti-bullying campaign, which began in January with an I Am Part of the Solution theme. T-shirts and bracelets were sold to staff and students to help get the word out. Students have signed a pledge and posted their names on a Tiger Paw, which were put up on a wall in the school’s forum to visually show their commitment to being a part of the solution.

“The overall anti-bullying campaign has been a steady roll-out,” Kuhnert added. “We have words listed on the wall as reminders – humility, empathy, compassion, gratitude. It’s slowly being worked into the curriculum when teachers have the opportunity. Activities like Mix It Up Day keep it going.

“The campaign will stay with us next year and will be something that is engrained at Valley Southwoods.”

At the end of each lunch period, students shook off any awkwardness they felt about meeting someone new: