LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Even adults can feel left out sometimes, but for kids, experiencing social isolation can feel crushing.
On Friday, fifth graders at Oak Park Elementary School learned the importance of not letting anyone eat alone.
When you ask a room full of fifth graders if they’ve ever experienced isolation, you don’t expect every hand to be raised.
At this assembly, that’s exactly what happened.
“They have this one boy who got picked on because of his skin color," Carmen, a fifth grader at Oak Park, said.
A lot of people assume social isolation doesn’t start until kids are older, but that’s not the case.
“There’s this one boy in fifth grade that everyone doesn’t want to be near him and thinks he’s contagious,” Emily, a student at Oak Park said.
It’s a problem that elementary school teachers see first-hand every day from the lunch room, to recess, and even on social media.
“It does happen early,"Alexis Goodly, a teacher at Oak Park, said. "I’ve been teaching for 12 years and it happens. It’s a daily thing.”
That’s what the No One Eats Alone program works to address.
The program was founded by the parents of a little girl with a cranial facial syndrome, who was often socially isolated in middle school.
She died at the age of 15 and afterwards, her friends wanted to create something that could honor her life.
In 2019, No One Eats Alone Day will be celebrated in more than 2,500 schools across the country.
“Our hope is that they will be able to embrace themselves, learn to identify with others, even though they may be different from them," said Chelsea Graves with Louisiana Healthcare Connections.
Louisiana Healthcare Connections partners with the organization, traveling to schools around the state teaching kids about bullying and isolation.
While social isolation can’t be fixed in a day, the program plants a seed for kids to take to the lunch table and beyond.
If the No One Eats Alone program doesn’t come to your child’s school, you can apply, and the program is free.