Mix It Up Day returns at Seneca Valley Middle School
“It's like planning the world's biggest wedding,” said Tom Donati, world history teacher at Seneca Valley 7⁄8 Middle School.
For the past three years, he and Jennifer North, guidance counselor, have organized the district's Mix It Up Day, when middle-school students get to make new friends — or at least introduce themselves to strangers — at lunch.
By picking a number out of a hat, they identify one of the 66 tables where they'll dine with 7 students they may have never met.
“We found out about it through a magazine,” said Donati.
“It's pretty neat. It's a way to get out of a normal day and do something new.”
On Oct. 30, National Mix It Up Day, SV students will experience it again. During three lunch periods, all 1,200 students will take a risk and meet someone new.
This activity is ideal for middle schoolers who are shy or who already have a seemingly full complement of friends.
The activity is explained during one homeroom period, and a day later, a follow-up session is held, said North, of Portersville.
“It's a mixed bag,” said Donati, of South Hills.
“Some don't like it.”
But in their discomfort, there are teachable moments and a chance to empathize with others.
“I know you love your seven people you sit with,' I tell them, ‘but imagine that poor kid who feels like that every day,” Donati said about students who feel alone and uncomfortable on a daily basis.
Hollen Davinsizer and Lina DiTullio, eighth-graders from Harmony, ultimately found the experience helpful.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Hollen, coming from Evans City Elementary School to the SV campus.
“It's a ginormous school, and we switch classes, but once you got used to it, it wasn't so bad.”
Hollen also had a positive perspective on the activity.
“It pushed all of us to interact with new people,” she said.
“I didn't know anybody from Rowan and Haine.”
But in the year since, they've both made some very good friends from all around the district.
And with their new and improving social skills, Hollen and Lina had a good experience at the Student Council workshop last year, when they roomed with different people.
Even with the angst, Donati enjoys the exercise.
“It's good for kids,” he said. “If one student meets a friend, that's a success.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.