Feeling Part of the Team

Feeling Part of the Team
Posted on 02/09/2018
Image of Harris-Jackson Students at LunchNo One Eats Alone helps students feel included

(courtesy Theresa Cottom, ohio.com/Akron Beacon Journal)

Friday is National No One Eats Alone Day, but students at Harris-Jackson elementary school spent Thursday learning how to be inclusive not just at lunchtime but at all times of the day.

Harris-Jackson partnered with Buckeye Health Plan to share the importance of social inclusion with the nearly 600 students at the school Thursday during an assembly and performance from Elec Simon, a member of the Cavs QSticks drum team.

No One Eats Alone Day was created by the California-based nonprofit Beyond Differences as a “positive prevention initiative” to promote an inclusive environment in schools and raise awareness about the harms of social isolation, which can be a precursor for bullying and lead to anxiety, depression or even suicidal thoughts.

Harris-Jackson has partnered with Buckeye Health Plan, a company that manages multiple healthcare plans in the state, for about five years. Harris-Jackson is the only school in the district that the Buckeye Health Plan conducts lessons monthly, teaching fourth-graders about things like hygiene, self-esteem and more.

Since some students have already been learning about bullying in their classroom — and because kids sit with their classes at lunch — not a single student in the cafeteria was alone at lunchtime.

“You’re supposed to treat others the way you want to be treated,” said nine-year-old Taylor Gooch about the lessons she’s learned about bullying.

“They helped us a lot,” added 10-year-old Priyanka Mainali.

When everyone was done with lunch, and the cafeteria transformed into an auditorium, Simon helped drive that point home even further.

Simon, a Canton native who toured with the Broadway show Stomp and is a featured soloist with the Cavs’ QStix, busted out from behind the stage as his four-piece band played a wild drum roll.

While Simon is musically inclined, his main cause is teaching kids. He started a school tour to teach about bullying more than a decade ago in memory of a friend who committed suicide in high school.

“I use music as a bait to reel people in,” Simon said.

Once the music quieted down, and the kids were done rocking, Simon demonstrated exactly how to invite a lone student to join a group. Using teachers and students as examples, he demonstrated right and wrong ways to interact with other students.

“If I let somebody eat alone in school, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Simon said. “I got here because I was a good person, I was respectful and I opened the door to everyone who came through.”

Brian Brobson, a member connections representative for Buckeye Health Plan, said when the company hosts No One Eats Alone Day in other schools, kids are usually assigned random seats to sit next to someone at lunch who they’ve never sat next to before.

But those organizing the day at Harris-Jackson wanted to have a full-blown assembly with the whole school involved.

Principal Andrea Aller said she knew she wanted to get the message out to more than just the fourth-graders. This school year marks the first that students from the now-closed Bettes, Harris and Jackson schools are combined as one student body in the new Harris-Jackson building.

“We thought, ‘What can we do to make it a special year?’ ’’ Aller said. “The more things we can do like this to make everyone feel as one, the better.”

And with a recent uptick in student suicides in the area this year — including five in Stark County — they wanted to have an even broader impact than normal and teach everyone at the school to be inclusive, not just at lunchtimebut at all times of the day.

“Given all the suicides this year, we wanted to reach as many kids as we could,” said Brian Brobson.

Image of Harris-Jackson Students at LunchImage of Harris-Jackson Students at LunchImage of Harris-Jackson Students at Lunch
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