Heathwood Middle School and Upper School students celebrated National Mix It Up Day on October 31 by changing up who they ate lunch with. The goal was to build community by creating opportunities for new connections—and that’s just what students reported.
“I have literally never sat with any of these people before,” said 7th grader Thysen Jonell, “and it’s nice, because you get to connect with new people.”
“It’s really cool to get to talk to new people and become closer with them,” added 8th grader Celia Deese.
Research shows that 70% of students named the "cafeteria" as the setting where social boundaries are most clearly drawn in schools. In 2017 students in over 3,000 private and public schools in the U.S. participated in Mix It Up at Lunch Day. Students and adults swapped seats in their cafeterias, stepped out of their comfort zones and connected with new people.
At Heathwood, Mix It Up Day is sponsored and coordinated by ACCEPT, the Upper School diversity club. The value of the experience is evident in a student survey conducted by Quality Education Data:
- 95% said Mix It Up at Lunch Day prompted students to interact with people outside their normal social circles.
- 92% said Mix It Up at Lunch Day increased awareness about social boundaries and divisions within school.
- 83% said the event helped students make new friends.
- 79% said students have heightened sensitivity toward tolerance and social justice issues as a result of Mix It Up.
- 78% said students seem more comfortable interacting with different kinds of people as a result of Mix It Up.
Seventh grader Charlotte Gonzales pointed to another benefit of stepping out of the usual lunchtime groove when she said “It was a great way to reconnect with people I hadn’t talk to in a while.”
Senior Ben Feldman, who was the only boy at his table, said eating with girls was “entertaining,” and junior Towns Christian, one of the girls at his table, noted, “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to Ben before but today I did, and it was fun.”
Junior Claiborne Bunch, who was making good use of the conversation starters available on each table, said Mix It Up Day was fun because “you meet new friends and learn new things about people.”
Jackson Avery, who found himself the only senior at a table filled mostly with freshmen, said the new connections sparked by Mix It Up Day were valuable because “it’s important for freshmen and seniors, sophomores and juniors all to know each other. Besides,” he added, “I love these guys!”