Lunch period was markedly different in more than 9,000 schools today, as over 4 million students broke out of their lunch-buddy ruts to share a meal with someone new.
The students were participating in the third annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a national event sponsored by the Center and the Study Circles Resource Center.
"Mix It Up at Lunch Day is an opportunity for students to reach across the lines of style and appearance, the divisions of race and socioeconomic status, and meet new people in a safe and supportive environment," said Jennifer Holladay, director of the Center's tolerance programs.
One first-time participant in Mix It Up Day shared: "There were some people at my table during lunch that I already knew, but there were some kids I haven't said a word to. Today I talked to some of those kids, and I had a good time ... It's like you take a chance and step out of your regular everyday life."
"We laughed at the jokes people were saying, and we were just plain having fun," said Tina, who had participated in previous Mix events. "The new people at our table all had a great and positive attitude."
A 2002 Center survey showed that a majority of middle and high school students believed their schools were "quick to put people into categories," and almost half of respondents admitted that they had rejected someone from outside their own social group. The school lunchroom was the place students said they saw boundaries the most clearly.
"Thanks to the generous support of the Center's supporters, we were able to touch the lives of millions of students today," Holladay said.
Many students will continue to Mix It Up through dialogue groups, classroom activities, and a program providing grants to youth activist projects.