The following post was written by Will W. in response to the Day 15 Challenge Action: Sit at a different table in the cafeteria at lunch. Break social boundaries and maybe make some new friends.
For Day 15 of the Responsible Citizenship Challenge, I was tasked with sitting at a different table at lunch with a new group of kids. I decided that not only was I going to sit with kids from a different social group, I was going to sit with kids from an entirely different culture. This year at BHS, we have a handful of students who have transferred here from different countries. We have two students from Italy, one student from Brazil and one student from China. Interestingly, they all choose to eat lunch together. Despite coming from different corners of the globe, they all find a common ground in their experiences as newcomers to America.
High school cafeterias are a perfect illustration of the cultural division in society. While it may seem like everyone is merely sitting with their friends, a quick observation will reveal the clear social groups. Students subconsciously group themselves by ethnicity, academic ability, extracurricular activities, or perceived “popularity”. I found myself guilty of this grouping myself, as I tend to sit exclusively with students from the band. The goal of Day 15 was to break down these divisions, even if just for a day. In my 20 minutes with a new set of students I realized I had more in common with them than I could have ever imagined.
Honestly, I went into lunch bracing myself for forced conversation and long, awkward silences. To my relief, the students were friendly and welcoming. Each lit up when I asked them about their lives before moving to Burlington and their plans for the future. Much like myself, academics play a major role in all of their lives. Even more surprisingly, we all have pretty similar interests. All four of them hope to have careers in science. We spoke about our experiences in Burlington, and shared our favorite spots in Boston. I realized that, despite growing up thousands of miles apart, we were not very different. We are all teenagers, and we are all people, so why do we assume that we are so different? This challenge may have only been for one day, but I have found myself in the midst of new friendships that will last far beyond today.