PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - More than 500 Pass Christian High students learned how to stop bullying and take steps to foster friendships. The lessons didn't take place in a regular classroom, but in the school cafeteria. The cafeteria is usually the place where students get to eat and interact with their friends. But for one day, they were encouraged to step away from their cliques and comfort zones and sit with people they don't even know.
Lunch time at Pass High started with a Halloween treat and somewhat of a trick. The students had no idea why they were getting candy.
"I figured it would be a normal day at lunch. I didn't even think it was going to be happening," said Pass High Junior Colton Cuevas.
For the first time, Pass High participated in "National Mix-It-Up-At-Lunch Day." The event was held in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month.
"Just for us to come together for our students to celebrate diversity. It allows them to appreciate each other's likenesses, as well as their differences," said Pass High Principal Meridith Bang. "Anything that we can do in an effort to make sure that bullying is not something our students have to face here at Pass High is something we want to do."
Principals handed each student a candy bar and encouraged them to sit at the table that had their candy sign. After overcoming those initial awkward moments of getting to know each other, many students seemed to embrace the concept.
"We got to talk and have conversations that I didn't think I'd have meeting them for the first time. So maybe I can talk to them again and become friends with them," said Colton.
"I think we all can attest to that nature of that comfort zone that we have even as adults. So understanding that, our students have stepped up. They were willing to get out of that comfort zone, sit with students they may not know as well, and make some new friends along the way," said Bang.
The students also learned a little bit about themselves.
"I met a whole bunch of people that I don't usually sit with and I am becoming more of a personal person, like I can talk to people now," said Pass High Sophomore Jessica Hardy. "By sitting with new people and getting to know new people, you can learn to be yourself around other people and not being judged."
"People are different and looks can be deceiving. Just because a person looks a certain way doesn't mean that they actually act the way you think they act, so it's really helping," said Pass High Junior NaTonia Young.
"I'm learning things about them, meeting new people I've never met, so it's kind of fun," said Pass High Freshman Macey Ainsworth.
More than 6,000 schools across the country participated in "Mix It Up Day," including 30 schools in Mississippi. Schools in Bay St. Louis, Pascagoula and several Catholic schools in South Mississippi also hosted the event.