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Simon Anton, a seventh-grade history and leadership teacher at Hopkins who helped organize this year’s event, said he’s seen a difference in the school culture in the three years it has taken part. “Now you’ll see students who normally sit by themselves or those farther on the outskirts of the quad look around more and they’ll have people to recognize and wave to now, compared to the beginning of the program,” he said. “You see fewer students eating on their own because they have connections with people they can seek company with.

“And I have noticed students over the last year that are more socially shy, step up into bigger roles at the school.”, There was a beehive of boisterous energy at Hopkins on Friday, with hundreds of seventh- and eighth-graders, clustered together, chatting, eating and goofing off, while how to find your pointe shoe size others stood far from the event, playing basketball with their usual friends, An impromptu dance party broke out in one corner of the courtyard, and a group of leadership students gave out gold star stickers and colorful rubber wrist bands emblazoned with slogans about ending social isolation..

“We introduced ourselves to new kids we didn’t know, and they seemed surprised and happy and maybe a little nervous as well,” said Maria Fernanda, 12, a seventh-grader who roamed around with a couple of her friends introducing themselves to kids they barely knew. In another corner of the courtyard were a series of lunch tables, so-called “discussion stations,” that brandished signs like “sports, shoes, food and Netflix.” Kids could choose to sit with classmates they had never talked to before, and chat about shared interests, presenting ice-breaker questions on a slip of paper, like “What’s your favorite sport?” or  “Would you rather eat a duck or lick a cat?”.

“He’s in my basketball league, how to find your pointe shoe size but I’ve never talked to him, but sometimes I’d seen him before sitting alone, so I thought I’d try to meet him,” said Cobey Cardwell, 13, an eighth-grader, about Shivam Patel, 13, a seventh-grader, “You’re ever alone, you can sit with us,”  he told Patel, explaining that he used to sit alone in elementary school and understands the feeling, The annual lunch event is the brainchild of San Rafael-based nonprofit Beyond Differences, created by Laura Talmus, in memory of her daughter, Lili, who died as a high school freshman from Apert syndrome, Lili had a difficult transition socially from elementary to middle school, when her old elementary friends left her behind, Talmus still remembers the phone calls during lunchtime from her daughter..

“She would call and say, ‘I need to go home. I’m hiding in the girls bathroom, and no one wants me to sit with them,'” Talmus recalled. “And it was very hard to get those phone calls. It was heartbreaking.”. By putting a spotlight on the real problem of social isolation through the event, Talmus said she hopes that people will recognize it as the serious health crisis that it is. It can lead not only to gun violence but suicide, depression, obesity, high blood pressure and sleep disturbances, she said.

“So we want there to be how to find your pointe shoe size at least one day of the year where you just know that you’re going to go to school that day and everyone is going to be the same,” Talmus said, “Everyone is going to eat together, and no one is going to eat with their cliques and groups.”, Lynn Romano, an English teacher at Rancho Milpitas Middle School, said such events don’t work their magic overnight, and they can’t be forced, For instance, she estimates that among the 750 students at her school, about 100 kids showed up at the event she held last year, and she hopes more will show up this year..

“But anytime you can get 100 kids in middle school together, it’s kind of a big deal,” she said. Like Hopkins and other schools, “we don’t’ force the kids to do it, and it’s a very open event, and if people want to join, they can do so. I think it creates an atmosphere of connectiveness and freedom,” Romano said. She says kids have come up to her to tell her about best friends they’ve made from that day. Javonte Francis, 14, a freshman at Oakland Tech High School, who is on the Beyond Differences teen board, said he believes in the event’s message of inclusion and ending social isolation, after witnessing a new kid come into class and get teased and bullied about his strong foreign accent.

“I was sitting at desk and telling myself to do something, but I never got out of my seat,” he said, regretting it, “And then I saw a few days later, him sitting by himself, and I just passed by him, like he didn’t matter and he didn’t exist.”, But since then, “I’ve learned just how serious social isolation can be,” he said, “It can lead you to grow up to be lonely in life, it can lead to an early death, and it can relate to smoking and alcohol and drugs, But how to find your pointe shoe size I learned how to stand up for kids that are being socially isolated and not just sit and watch, I learned how to be a leader.”..

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