Gulf Avenue Elementary students learn the power of friendship

Gulf Avenue Elementary students learn the power of friendship

Lunchtime can seem lonely to someone eating alone – especially in a roomful of people.

At Gulf Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington, students are learning how to make the midday meal more sociable, welcoming classmates into their circle and including those who might otherwise eat alone.

“Maybe for one person who doesn’t have a friend, this becomes a great time to socialize as we do it, talking while eating,” said Davion, vice president of Gulf Avenue Elementary’s fifth-grade class.

Fifth-grade Vice President Davion and President Mariah embrace the message of inclusion.

The initiative was launched recently during No One Eats Alone Day, when students paired off with a classmate, found common interests, then had an old-fashioned conversation – one unaided by a cell phone or other computing device. While munching on burritos, Davion and his new buddy talked football and found themselves bonding over the teams they both liked.

Reaching out to others is easy, Davion said, and shouldn’t be limited to just one day a year.

Gulf Avenue Elementary Principal David Kooper and Sally Kuhlman, director of national programs for Beyond Difference, collaborate on No One Eats Alone Day.

“I think it’s so important to put into practice,” Davion said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or tall or skinny. All you need to do is to have a friend, have fun with them and have a great time.”

Gulf Avenue Elementary Principal David Kooper said he wants his students to learn early on, since the capacity to understand another’s feelings makes them a better person and a better friend.

“I want our kids to be trained to spot students needing assistance and be willing to give assistance,” he said. “We need to make the kids who are invisibible, visibile.”

Gulf Avenue was one of more than 2,000 schools in every state that observed No One Eats Alone Day, which was launched by the nonprofit Beyond Differences. The group is dedicated to ending bullying and social isolation by creating more welcoming a environment on campus.

“Our goal is to teach kids to be leaders and activists, and go out and meet people, sit with someone new, ask them questions and not just walk by the person they see alone,” said Sally Kuhlman, director of national programs at the Northern California-based organization.

Mariah, the fifth-grade class president, took the lesson to heart, chatting up a first-grader about their common love of basketball. By the time lunch ended, they found they also both loved soccer – fodder for the next day’s conversation.

“Today is a day where we can meet each other and make more friends,” Mariah said.

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LAUSD Shines

Cleveland High band program marches on after years with no teacher, little money – Los Angeles Daily News

Valley View Elementary turns 100, as will dozens of other LAUSD schools in the next five years  – LASchoolReport

10 Dedicated and Deserving Social Workers includes L.A. Unified’s Verónica Obregón – Social Work Today

‘Cool Kid’ Camille Ng spreads warmth to kids in need – KABC-7

LAUSD Schools get new gyms through UCLA Health’s ‘Sound Body Sound Mind’ program – KABC-7

LAPD officers spread holiday cheer at Van Nuys elementary school – Los Angeles Daily News

Burrowing Owl delights students, staff at urban school –

Essay: The Translated Life, From Immigrant to Valedictorian. – NBC News

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Linked Learning the focus of innovative high school. – Education Writers of America

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Video: Venice High School celebrates top seniors. Yo Venice

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Op-Ed: Supt. Michelle King on frog dissections, STEM and the future of charters in LAUSD. Los Angeles Times

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