The students of Draper Middle School in Rotterdam were divided into different groups, sat down at lunch tables and asked to do something painful on Tuesday, Nov. 10: talk to someone outside their own group of friends.
As a part of Respect Month in the Mohonasen School District, students at the middle school have participated in Stop Bullying Now week as a way to inspire respect and unity among the students at the school.
During their Tuesday lunch period, students were divided into groups based on the color of their shirts for the Mix It Up at Lunch event. The students were then asked to learn something new about their lunchroom buddies.
"We try to have an environment where the kids feel comfortable with talking to counselors and adults," said guidance counselor Debbie Wood. "The kids are good; most of them are non-judgmental, and the kids have learned about accepting one and other."
Wood said Mohonasen has gained from the teaching methods of educators, guidance counselors and administrators who make it easier for students to discuss issues in their lives. She cited the work of Principal Debra Male as a guiding force in this philosophy.
"Debra Male is a big promoter of this kind of camaraderie," Wood said. "She sees kids all the time and promotes that kids come to adults. She's a very good person."
Male said it is all a part of the effort to be " a community school."
"We want the kids to get along in the school," said Male.
She said students should learn to talk to people outside their comfort zones not only because it means better communication among peers but also because of future life situations they will encounter.
"It's good for social situations and good to stop prejudging people," she said.
Some students were resistant to the change and tried to hang out with their friends in the lunchroom, but members of the school's staff, as well as student groups such as Peers for Peace, help to open up students to new ideas.