The Unsung, one year later: A lunch club has gone global

Shelly Gigante

By Shelly Gigante
Shelly Gigante specializes in personal finance issues. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications and news websites.
Posted on Nov 4, 2018

Last year, MassMutual celebrated the inspiring people who looked out for each other, exemplifying the Live Mutual ethos and giving us hope after a year that seemed dominated by negative news. 2018 was also full of people going out of their way to help others. But before getting to know them, let's check in on some of our Unsung Heroes from last year.

The lunch club started by students at a south Florida high school, who sought to create a safe place for classmates on the social fringes, is spreading its wings — big time.

“We Dine Together” at Boca Raton High School has inspired more than 150 high schools nationwide (and a few overseas) to implement lunch clubs of their own using the same model.

The club at Boca Raton High still meets three to four times a month to eat lunch in Jordan Hernandez’s classroom, the teacher-advisor who helped it get off the ground three years ago and champions its mission today. The club members canvas the cafeteria and courtyard to initiate conversations with students who are sitting alone and invite them to attend.

Kids from all socio-economic strata come for the pizza, conversation, and camaraderie, said Ana Quintas, the school’s student leader in charge of broadening the club’s diversity and communicating its message to the community.

“We now have more than 100 members and every meeting is packed, which is great,” she said, noting she herself is an immigrant from Brazil who struggled to connect with her classmates when she moved to Florida in seventh grade. “The club gives everyone a voice and a place to go if they feel alone. It’s a great way to create bonds and make friends.” (Learn about the club’s creation here)

The We Dine Together lunch club, started by a student who graduated from Boca Raton High two years ago, is now the a key initiative of the national nonprofit Be Strong, which seeks to prevent bullying using a student-led approach. The nonprofit had the infrastructure in place to help deliver the lunch club model to classrooms across the country and around the world. Indeed, it has been deployed at schools as far away as Barcelona and Hong Kong. 

Today, students looking to launch a We Dine Together club of their own work directly with the Be Strong organization, which provides resources to help them develop a curriculum. Student representatives are required to submit written summaries monthly about their learnings, to organize activities, and to demonstrate kindness, advocacy, and awareness.

Its founders say they are thrilled that the lunch club has taken off and are heartened that is continues to inspire young people to step up and step out in support of one another. And isn't that what it's all about? 

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