Lunch can often be a difficult time for new students at a school. The fear of not knowing anyone and not having a person to sit with can sometimes be overwhelming.
The students at Goose Creek High School are working to change that for students. A student-led organization started by Amanda Cooper's law education students two years ago works to welcome new students by providing them with someone to eat with at lunch.
The students began the program as part of their advocacy project. The students created the program, published a brochure on bullying and worked with guidance to create a sponsor for students who needed assistance.
The group was recently expanded to include the "Gator Ambassadors," these students assist new students by offering tours of the school to familiarize them with the campus.
Cooper said that the program is all about inclusion and making sure that all students feel welcome and wanted while attending school.
“The idea was to make sure that everybody felt included,” Cooper said in a press release. “We have a lot of students that transfer late into the semester and a lot of students who haven’t necessarily found their people yet, so we just wanted to make sure that everybody felt included and found somebody they could connect with to make the transition to a new school easier.”
The work is never completed for the group and they are always looking for ways to assists students all around the school. The group meets every week and discusses more ways to be inclusive.
Cooper explained that it takes a special kind of student to be a part of the lunch program. Students need to have a servant-leader mentality, be goal-oriented and be out-going.
Eleventh grader Jaedyn Jones said that the program is not limited to helping new students.
“It’s not just for new students, it’s for any kid who just hasn’t felt like they’ve had a purpose here and stuff like that,” Jones said.
Jones remembered how she did not know a lot of people when she first came to the school and wants to help create a different experience for others.
“I didn’t have anybody to help me out, so I wish I would’ve had that, so I just decided to create the program to help others so they didn’t feel like how I felt when I first came,” she said.
The program has impacted the experiences of several students including ninth grader Dalvin Hamilton.
Hamilton was eating by himself one day at lunch and this was noticed by fellow student Xavion Bennett who invited Hamilton to join himself and his friends for lunch.
“We introduced ourselves to them and…ever since then he’s just been around us at lunch,” he said, “It means a lot because not a lot of people are not socially ‘out there’…so we can make them feel comfortable and relaxed in (tough) environments.”
Hamilton and Bennett have since remained friends since that day in the cafeteria. They now walk together to class and make a point to speak with one another in the hallway if they have the opportunity.
Hamilton said that he felt overwhelmed by school in his initial days there but his experience with Bennett helped to calm him and become comfortable with the new environment.