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Differences Shouldn’t Mean Social Isolation

For elementary and middle school students such as Auggie, the main character from Wonder, the thought of going to school in the morning fills them with dread and anxiety – not because of the classroom work, but because of the social environment. In the United States, young people spend half of their waking hours in school. Lunch and recess give students a way to break up the day, socialize and recharge before going back to class. But, for some students, especially students who may have differences or have lower social skills than their peers, lunch and recess are hardly a time to unwind. It is a time to dread.

The social pressures of the playground and the lunch table combined with social status redefined on today’s digital play ground, can make lunchtime more stressful than academic work itself.

How can we help a child or teen who doesn’t want to go to school because even lunch seems like misery?

Parents have a role: they can become advocates of their child by bringing to their school’s attention the issue of social isolation and the programs Beyond Differences offers. School counselors, teachers, and administrators are all likely to be interested important program.

Educators have a role: teachers can become involved by bringing one of Beyond Differences’ national awareness days, along with Beyond Differences’ teacher’s guides to empower children to be more inclusive.

Social isolation is often a precursor to bullying. Socially isolated students typically do not have anyone to sit with at lunch, no one to play with at recess, and often find themselves alone at this crucial time for adolescent social development. According to a 2013 research study on children and social isolation, negative health consequences are serious and include risk of heart disease, sleep disturbances and obesity.

These students also run higher risks of engaging in truancy, self-harm and community violence.

Imagine a middle school with endless social opportunities for every child regardless of how a child looks, what they eat, or their family’s socio-economic status. Imagine one where students always have someone to sit with at lunch. One where no one was left out. As ambitious as it seems, Beyond Differences is committed to empowering youth to end social isolation.

Bring No One Eats Alone™ Day to your child’s middle school. Visit nooneeatsalone.org and see how exciting this special event can be for your child’s school. We adults may not have had the benefit of Beyond Differences when we were growing up, but our children do and it’s time to take advantage of these three student-led, smartly written, student programs to end social isolation today.

National Programs

Know Your Classmates

Our innovative national programs have inspired a cultural and behavioral shift at middle schools and high schools across the country. Join our movement to end social isolation by bringing one or all of these programs to your school.

Know Your Classmates is designed to explore middle school youth's identity and belonging, understand traditions, and recognize stereotypes. Multi-cultural and multi-faith backgrounds are common in today's schools and Know Your Classmates is speaking honestly with children about their feelings and experiences with one another. Know Your Classmates Day is Friday, October 23, 2020!

No One Eats Alone

No One Eats Alone™ teaches everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day. Created and organized by students, this is our most popular program where schools in all 50 United States participate! National No One Eats Alone Day is Friday, February 12, 2021.

Be Kind Online

Be Kind Online is a powerful engagement program for middle school youth, their teachers and families. Focused on creating inclusive communities online, particularly learning to respond to digital gossip to reduce social isolation, Be Kind Online Day is May 14, 2021.

All of our programs encourage taking the pledge to never exclude others, reaching out to someone new, and spreading the word that inclusion is cool!