Seeing past differences and getting to know each other

RBR students carry out the aim of Mix It Up at Lunch Day by socializing with students they may not know. RBR students carry out the aim of Mix It Up at Lunch Day by socializing with students they may not know. LITTLE SILVER – Red Bank Regional High School held its first Mix It Up at Lunch Day on Nov. 13 to promote diversity and tolerance. The program, which is held in more than 10,000 schools around the U.S., provides students with an opportunity to break down racial, cultural, language, social and ability barriers by simply taking the time to have lunch with someone they do not know or routinely socialize with. RBR’s Affirmative Action Officer Cheryl Washington organized the event with the assistance of special education teacher Katie MacIntyre.

During the event, an overhead projector announced quotes on diversity and tolerance in RBR’s cafeteria, while a poster display proclaimed the same topics, which were explored by a group of 27 RBR students who had recently attended a Day of Tolerance at Brookdale Community College on Oct. 19.

That program, a prelude to Mix-It-Up Day, sought to create ambassadors of tolerance in the 22 schools that sent representatives. Speakers included representatives from Brookdale, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Human Relations Commission as well as the Monmouth County superintendent of schools. The students participated in discussions, a diversity workshop, and watched a theatrical presentation by the COW (Changing Our World) Project), which wove topics of bullying, relationships, family and substance abuse in a presentation of music, dance, theater and poetry.

Mix-It-Up Day was designed to combat ignorance by encouraging interaction among students who together occupy a building six hours a day but who often remain unknown to one another.

“This gives them the opportunity to dare to get to know someone else. We hope they will share of themselves with one another, for that is what makes a good school, sharing with each other,” said MacIntyre.

When students arrived at one of four lunch periods that day, they were directed to sit at the table labeled for their birthday month. A set of ice-breaker questions helped start conversations. Soon tables were occupied by members of the school’s diverse student body.

“People had different views and answers … you got to know the person a lot better,” said Alex Gomez, a senior.

As a first-time event, both organizing teachers found it to be a great success.

Washington said she received positive feedback from both students and staff who suggested that Mix-It-Up Day take place several times during the school year.