Lunchtime often comes with a side of anxiety for students in high schools all across the country — except one.
At Boca Raton Community High School, no one eats alone, not if Denis Estimon, and all the other members of We Dine Together, can help it.
The high school senior founded the club to create a positive environment of inclusion, where students can think of no better way to spend their lunchtime than introducing themselves and fostering friendships with anyone who may be sitting alone.
In the school's outdoor courtyard, filled with 3,400 students, Estimon and others have no shortage of potential lunchmates. In particular, club members reach out to new students who may often feel out of place and shy in their new surroundings.
Estimon knows firsthand what that feels like, having immigrated to the United States from Haiti in the first grade. Since then, he's gained many friends, but he still remembers the feeling of being alone in an unfamiliar place. "It's not a good feeling... you're by yourself," Estimon told Steve Hartman in an "On The Road" segment for CBS Evening News. "And that's something I don't want anybody to go through."
Allie Sealy, another of the club's organizers, recalled her own experience of transferring to Boca Raton two years ago. "I went from a school where I always had friends — to coming to where I had nobody," she explained to Hartman, unable to hold back a tear or two. "Meeting someone who actually cares and listens to what you have to say really makes a difference — and that could happen at lunch. That could happen at our club."
In fact, it already is, to isolated students and club members alike. Jean Max Meradieu even quit the football team so he could dedicate more time to the club, making dozens of friends he never would have otherwise. "I don't mind not getting a football scholarship. This is what I really want to do," Meradieu told Hartman.
"To me it's like, if we don't try to go make that change, who's going to do it?" Estimon concluded in the interview. He's not waiting to find out. Already, Estimon and his fellow club members aim to expand We Dine Together to other high schools so anyone and everyone can feel included, make new friends, and change lives — all before the lunch bell rings.
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(H/T: The Huffington Post)