More Than 4 Million Students at 9,000 Schools Set to Challenge Social Boundaries During Fifth Annual ‘Mix it Up at Lunch Day’

SPLC, Nov. 9, 2006

Millions of students across the country will challenge social boundaries at their schools on Tuesday, Nov. 14, as part of the fifth annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a project designed to foster respect and understanding in schools and communities.

The project, sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, is based on a simple but powerful idea: For this one day, students are encouraged to sit with someone new at lunch. Nowhere on school campuses are the boundaries of group membership more obvious than in and around the cafeteria.

“Our country is still divided along lines of race, ethnicity, class and the like,” said Mix It Up Director Tafeni English. “Schools and college campuses are actually the third most common venue for hate crimes.”

“But many of our prejudices and biases tend to fall away when we mix with and meet new people. Mix It Up at Lunch Day gives students an opportunity to bring down the walls in their schools and get to know people they might not otherwise interact with.”

An estimated 4 million youths at 9,000 schools are expected to take part in this year’s Mix It Up Day. Many of the schools are using it to kick off a yearlong exploration of social boundaries.

After last year’s event, organizers overwhelmingly reported that Mix It Up Day successfully encouraged students to cross group lines and meet new people; helped foster school spirit and unity; raised student awareness about social boundaries; helped students make new friends; and made students feel more comfortable interacting with different kinds of people.

“Mix It Up Day is an open window to get to know each other and get out of our comfort zones,” wrote Colorado middle school student Anna McLean in an essay for Teaching Tolerance’s website. “The important thing to remember is to keep your good friends, but at the same time don’t label others or label yourself. We need to be who we are and look at others for who they are as well.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center started its Teaching Tolerance program—http://www.teachingtolerance.org—in 1991 to provide educators with free resources designed to promote respect for differences and an appreciation of diversity. The Mix It Up program began in 2002.

To find out more about Mix It Up at Lunch Day, visit http://www.mixitup.org

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