Eating alone in the cafeteria at school can be a child’s worst nightmare.
It’s a scenario we’ve seen played out in our own lives, the stories our children tell us, and even in popular movies.
Denis Estimon decided he didn’t want that to happen anymore and he decided to do something about it.
“It’s not a good feeling, like you’re by yourself. And that’s something that I don’t want anybody to go through,” Estimon told CBS News when he was a high school senior at Boca Raton High School.
Estimon didn’t want kids to feel lonely while eating lunch alone because he himself knows that feeling of loneliness.
Estimon is from Haiti and came here when he was in the first grade.
He often felt isolated in his new school when he first arrived.
Especially during lunchtime. Now he has lots of friends.
So, he figured he would recruit them and create a gang of people who would make sure others didn’t feel alone at lunch.
“To me it’s like, if we don’t try to go make that change, who’s going to do it?” Estimon said.
The gang is actually more like a club.
It’s called the “We Dine Together” club.
They check out the courtyard at lunch and make sure that no one is alone or without company.
If they are without company, the We Dine Together club becomes their company and they all eat lunch together.
It’s been especially helpful for students who are new to Boca Raton High School.
According to CBS News, hundreds of friendships were born out of the club within the year that it was started.
It’s not only helping the lonelier students but also the more popular students by widening the groups of children they interact with.
Former football player Jean Max Meradieu said he’s hung out with kids he would have never met on the football team.
He actually quit the football team so he could spend more time with this club.
“I don’t mind not getting a football scholarship,” Jean said. “This is what I really want to do.”
And what Jean and his friends are doing can change lives.
Studies show bullying and feeling like an outsider as a child can have negative effects on kids that can last well into their adult years.
Affecting all sorts of aspects from their lives and causing problems like low self-esteem, poor school performance, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
“It seems really unfair. It’s honestly an issue,” student Allie Sealey, who once ate lunch alone as a new student, said. “Meeting someone who actually cares and listens to what you have to say, really makes a difference. And that can happen at lunch, that can happen at our club.”
When Estimon graduated, he decided to start we Dine together to Be Strong organization that travels the country to open “We Dine Together” chapters at other schools and is on track to create more than 100 clubs.
“We Dine Together (WDT) is a completely student-led movement. Student leaders make it a priority to create a positive social atmosphere on their campuses,” the website states.
“For a new incoming student, the group is a welcoming committee. To others, WDT can be a safe haven where they can be themselves without fear of rejection. For the school, the WDT family is a catalyst for real social change.”
You can learn more and contribute to the organization here. Learn more about this amazing club in the video below.
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