No one eats alone at Galion Middle School

Special to the Inquirer

GALION — Galion Middle School Principal Paul Wheeler is always looking for new ways to get kids involved and included in various aspects of middle school life. Recently, Mr. Wheeler saw kids eating alone at lunch and knew he needed to do something.

“Seeing kids eating alone at lunch made me worry that we weren’t doing enough for our students, even during this pandemic,” Wheeler said. “I knew I needed to find something, a program or curriculum, that could help us combat students’ feelings of isolation.”

Wheeler immediately went to work and discovered the No One Eats Alone program, as well as No One Eats Alone Day. The program teaches students how to make friends and create a culture of belonging.

“Students, because of the shelter-in-place orders and lack of regular interaction at school, are feeling lonely and disconnected,” Galion Middle School Counselor Gabrielle Carsey said. “Research shows that social isolation among adolescents is rampant and contributes to adverse medical, emotional, and academic outcomes.”

Beyond Differences, the company that sponsors No One Eats Alone has been training student leaders to embrace differences and change the culture in their schools to be more welcoming for everyone over the past 10 years. The company provides backpacks filled with materials and original curriculum to help teachers work with their students to create connection and acceptance that ultimately builds strong communities.

“This program is fantastic because the parent company provides all the materials and curriculum our teachers need to implement the program,” Wheeler said. “And, on top of that, it is a free program for our district.”

Galion Middle School kicked off the program when students returned from the holiday break on Monday, Jan. 4. Students will be participating in activities throughout the month of January, with No One Eats Alone Day is celebrated on Feb. 12.

“We don’t want to see any of our students ‘fall through the cracks,’” Wheeler said. “Ultimately, our goal in implementing this program is to improve the overall climate and culture of Galion Middle School the remainder of this school year and beyond.”

No One Eats Alone is a Positive Prevention Initiative that aims to create a culture of belonging where all students feel accepted, respected, and valued. Beyond Differences was founded by the parents of Lili Rachel Smith who was born with a cranial facial syndrome and was socially isolated during her middle school years.

Contact School Counselor Gabrielle Carsey or Student Engagement Coordinator Amy Heydinger at 419-468-3134 for additional information about the No One Eats Alone program at Galion Middle School.

Special to the Inquirer