NHS Students Ready To Say ‘Sit With Us’ At Lunch
Lunch at Newtown High School may soon be sweeter for those who find themselves sitting alone, as students are stepping up to say “Sit With Us,” through use of an app by that name.
According to NHS parent Deborah Lubin Pond, also a Hawley Elementary School kindergarten teacher, who is acting as an advisor for the new program with NHS psychologist Dr Jennifer Hoag, the effort to launch the Sit With Us program began last winter, when several parents shared that their children were sitting alone at lunch at NHS. As Ms Pond explained in a recent e-mail, sitting alone at lunch can feel isolating for high school students. According to Ms Pond, district parent Gaylyn Ruvere soon offered a suggestion: an app called Sit With Us.
Ms Pond reacted to the idea about using the app swiftly. She contacted then NHS Interim Principal David Roach and received his permission to begin meetings. Dr Hoag, NHS Guidance Counselor Jeff Tolson, and NHS special education teacher Jill Gonski enthusiastically joined the effort to bring the program to NHS, according to Ms Pond.
“Sit With Us,” the app’s description reads, “is a social networking app designed to promote kindness and inclusion in schools. Kids can use the app’s features to coordinate lunches with their friends. They can also volunteer to be the ambassadors for their schools and post open lunch events on campus, where everyone will be included. No one needs to eat alone.”
The educators decided to have the students who volunteer as Kindness Ambassadors wear “large pins on their backpacks with the hashtag #SitWithUs on it in case some students didn’t want to use an App,” Ms Pond said.
“This app enables students who volunteer to become Kindness Ambassadors to set up places to meet up during lunch waves, and for students who would like to meet up with someone to eat with to easily coordinate a place find each other and sit with someone who will be welcoming them with open arms,” Ms Pond continued.
She added that wearing pins would allow students without the app to “look around, see someone with a pin, and know that person would always love to have lunch with them on any given day or help them find another ambassador in their lunch wave to eat with if their times didn’t happen to match up. We want to make sure that there are multiple options in order to reach as many students as possible.”
According to the description for the app, it was created by a teenage girl who was a victim of severe bullying. “It was terrible having to eat lunch alone every day,” the description reads.
Ms Pond said students volunteering in the Sit With Us program at NHS are all students in the HAWKS (Have respect, Act responsibly, Work with honesty and integrity, Keep high expectations, and Support the community) Honor Association. Other sophomores or juniors at NHS who would like to take part in the program can contact Ms Pond or Dr Hoag by e-mail, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, to volunteer.
“We are so proud of the kids,” said Ms Pond, adding that the NHS Sit With Us student volunteers are also coming up with ways to reach out to students through other means, like using Twitter, Facebook, posters around the school, and e-mails to school parents.
Dr Hoag said it is exciting that the program is being implemented at NHS.
“I am hoping that Sit With Us helps build connections between students and fosters a positive school climate,” Dr Hoag said in a recent e-mail.
When student ambassadors for the program make a new connection with another student, Dr Hoag said she has asked to be informed of each new connection to help oversee the program.
“We will also be meeting regularly to discuss student experiences,” said Dr Hoag.
In an e-mail sent to parents near the start of September, NHS Principal Dr Kimberly Longobucco and Ms Pond explained, “Newtown High School is thrilled to announce the launch of a wonderful initiative to help build feelings of community, friendship, and belonging among our students. The idea behind this program is to make available the opportunity for all students to enjoy lunch with friendly people who welcome them with open arms to their table. There will be two ways for students to connect with each other.”
The e-mail explained students with iPhones or Android phones can download the Sit With Us app to look for lunches that are being offered by student Kindness Ambassadors, or students can look for Kindness Ambassadors by looking for the large pins on their backpacks.
“If you see that person, you will automatically know that they would love for you to join them for lunch that day, or any day!” the e-mail to parents read.
The Sit With Us program launched at the school on September 14, and according to Dr Longobucco, the HAWKS Honor Association members were ready. The students had hung posters on the school’s walls announcing the program, and the volunteer students wore their blue buttons on their backpacks. Dr Longobucco said the school community is excited to see the first successful connections in the program.
“I personally think this program is going to be meaningful to our students in a variety of ways,” said Dr Longobucco. “Not only will it ease the fear of having to eat alone in the cafeteria, but it will be a catalyst for new friendships. We want to educate the whole student, and this program will allow our ambassador students to practice leadership skills while really continuing our mission for kindness, caring, and compassion for all students in our building. I am excited to see how this program grows and how it can positively impact our school.”
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