The nearly 3400 students at Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, come from a variety of cultural, ethnic, and class backgrounds, but they all share one thing in common: No one has to sit at a lunch table alone.
According to People, dozens of volunteers in the school’s We Dine Together club roam the grounds every lunch period looking for classmates who might be new to the area or are otherwise feeling left out of social groups, making sure that no one is without company.
We Dine Together originated during the 2015-16 school year, when then-junior Denis Estimon and his friends agreed that their large student body—which represents members of more than 70 countries—could use a way to bring attendees closer together. A native of Haiti, Estimon remembered being 6 years old and feeling bashful during lunch.
While it was an experience he didn’t want others to share, he wasn’t sure what to do until an after-school program counselor challenged him to find a solution.
“At Boca High, if you look at the cafeteria from a bird's eye view, on one side you’ll see more isolated kids, and on the other side you’ll see the football players," Estimon told ABC News. "I told him it shouldn’t be this way. He challenged me to do something about it and that’s basically what I did."
With the help of English teacher Jordan Hernandez, Estimon started the program in August 2016. It’s grown to include around 80 members who look for attendees eating alone or who bond over slices of pizza or packed lunches during weekly meetings in Hernandez’s classroom. If a member finds a teen in solitude, they’ll politely invite them to join the group. All of those interactions, Estimon believes, help foster a sense of community and relationships that can bring people closer together.
Kinsley Soorestal, 17, was one of the founding members and told People that fellow students “really appreciate it. Maybe for the first time, they feel like they belong.”