“Lunch Bunch” program fosters new connections between WHS students

The+%22Lunch+Bunch%22+group+provides+a+chance+for+interactions+between+general+education+and+special+education+students+that+otherwise+may+not+have+happened.+Students+from+the+group+try+to+meet+every+lunch+to+foster+a+sense+of+community.+%E2%80%9CThe+main+way+you+meet+people+is+when+you+have+classes+with+them%2C+so+it+was+really+nice+to+finally+meet+and+talk+to+%5Bthese+students%5D+in+person+and+get+to+know+them+because+without+this+club+I+wouldn%E2%80%99t+know+them+as+well%2C+and+they+wouldn%27t+know+me+as+well%2C%E2%80%9D+senior+Hilla+Almog+said.

Credit: Sidney O'Rourke

The “Lunch Bunch” group provides a chance for interactions between general education and special education students that otherwise may not have happened. Students from the group try to meet every lunch to foster a sense of community. “The main way you meet people is when you have classes with them, so it was really nice to finally meet and talk to [these students] in person and get to know them because without this club I wouldn’t know them as well, and they wouldn’t know me as well,” senior Hilla Almog said.

Under the motto “Kindness is contagious,” study hall teacher Janet Carmichael and special education teachers Diane Camozzi and Mary Edwards created the “Lunch Bunch.” They wanted to foster relationships between some of the general education students and kids in Camozzi and Edwards’ program. The main goal of the Lunch Bunch is to provide socialization opportunities for the kids in Camozzi and Edwards’ program. The mentors try to have students have lunch together as much as possible to allow for genuine friendships to grow.

The program allows those that take part in the opportunity to get to meet and spend time with special education students they might not otherwise spend much time with during class or lunch.

“We just wanted to find a way where the [special education] kids could socialize, and we just thought that maybe in the commons, they could have lunch together, and the [general education] kids could volunteer and enjoy it,” Camozzi said.

During lunch, the students in the Lunch Bunch program have the choice to either spend time in the commons together or in the designated special education room if that’s more comfortable. They also often either games as a group, or just talk to each about their lives or the happenings of the school.

“When they were in the commons, they would just hang out, but there were some opportunities for the high school students to come into our classroom,” Camozzi said. “In those opportunities, we would just play cards or UNO or any sort of easy game that was light. Or we would just socialize and talk about sports that were happening, or the play that was coming up, or do you play a musical instrument, just trying to form that relationship.”

Although the Lunch Bunch was a success last year, COVID-19 halted their daily meetings and created an onslaught of challenges to overcome. One of the most difficult to manage is the use of Zoom, which can disrupt the natural flow that happens with meeting face to face.

“It’s gonna be tough because doing it over Zoom is just kind of different,” senior William Munroe, who has been a part of the club for a year, said. “It’s hard to do small talk over Zoom.”

Even with the threat of the coronavirus constantly looming, the program is still hoping to return to its meetings when the hybrid model starts on Oct. 19.

“Once we get to hybrid, maybe we can do the same thing [as before] but just more socially distanced,” Camozzi said. “I think it’s gonna be trial and error until we can get a lay of the land and what it looks like.”

With the creation of the Lunch Bunch not only do the students in Camozzi and Edwards’ program get more chances to socialize, but the general education students in the club can make more connections through the group. Senior Hilla Almog, who has been part of Lunch Bunch for a year, feels that it has provided her with special opportunities to spend time with students that she wouldn’t otherwise know.

“The main way you meet people is when you have classes with them, so it was really nice to finally meet and talk to [these students] in person and get to know them because without this club, I wouldn’t know them as well, and they wouldn’t know me as well,” Almog said.

As a way to celebrate the unity of the Lunch Bunch last year, students in the special education program planned a Thanksgiving meal for the group and even a few teachers and administrators.

“We had the kids shop, and it was [made into] kind of a life skills activity,” Camozzi said. “We were able to pull off this Thanksgiving dinner for all the volunteers, so it was like my students saying, ‘thank you for giving your time and being so kind and just giving back.’”

The “Lunch Bunch” is actively looking for new members and encourages anyone who wants to further their sense of community within the school to do so.

“I’ve always liked [the group],” Munroe said. “I don’t think it’s community service or anything. I just like doing it [because] it’s fun.”