Everyone has their groups of friends at school. And often, these friends are people of similar interests, meaning that they also often end up being from the same programs.
But, sometimes forgotten is the value of socializing with people and getting to know individuals from other programs. It is easy to get stuck in rut: always hanging out with the same people in the same places without much variation.
Clubs offer a space for students of similar interests to come together and get to know each other, regardless of the programs from which they come. Lunch with Friends, a long-standing club on Rio’s campus, allows all students to feel included in a loving community no matter what their interests are or where they come from.
Lunch with Friends meets every Thursday from 12:15-1 p.m. virtually on Zoom. It is open to anyone and everyone and aims to bring the students from the Independent Living Skills (ILS) program and students from other programs together.
Each week, there is an activity planned that is accessible to all students, including crafts like origami, games like “this or that” and competitions like dance and rap battles.
Club presidents Ava Diedrich and Kiersten Bjork aim for every Thursday to be a time students can look forward to having fun and connecting with other students.
“My goal for Lunch with Friends would definitely be for all students to feel included and for people to make bonds outside of their circle of friends,” said Bjork. “I think sometimes programs are really separated so this club gives everyone a chance to interact and spend time with new people.”
Lunch provides a great opportunity to be social and take a break from the academic stress of the school day. Mental breaks are crucial to success and being able to stay happy and engaged in classes and studying, and clubs are an opportune way to take those breaks.
Teacher Rene Mikluscak says that especially during the pandemic, Lunch with Friends provides an essential community to ILS students, keeping them engaged and happy during a challenging time of distance learning.
“One important thing that this club provides our ILS students is that it helps build their social and emotional skills,” Mikluscak said. “By having the students be part of a club like Lunch with Friends it increases their social skills as well as providing them with an opportunity to build lasting relationships with their peers.”
One of the most unique effects that Lunch with Friends creates is a sense of belonging and community.
“I think that Lunch with Friends is a great way for the special education students to meet new people that they wouldn’t normally get to interact with,” said Diedrich. “It’s really valuable for kids outside of the ILS program to get to know kids with different abilities and encourage everyone to form friendships outside of their typical circles, encouraging inclusion and acceptance for all.”
Despite how easy it can be to get stuck in a rut, there are many opportunities, even virtually, for stepping out of your comfort zone. Thursdays at lunch could be a great chance to do that, and Lunch with Friends would love to have you there.