At Nessacus Middle School in Dalton a school club, STRIVE (Students, Teaching, Respect, Integrity, Values and Equality), worked with the District Attorney's Office to host a celebration CommUNITY lunch on January 22, 2013.

The STRIVE students, comprised of selected 7th and 8th grade students, completed an 8-week Peer Mentor Leadership Program in the fall of 2012 provided by the District Attorney’s Community Outreach & Education Program.  The youth development training supports increased student engagement and offers participants the knowledge and leadership skills to make smart personal decisions, positively influence their peers and contribute to a healthy school culture and climate.

On this particular day students were creatively given a new place to sit, instead of where they might normally sit.  Upon arriving at the lunchroom each student was given a printed boarding pass for a destination, and each table was labeled by destination, such as Aruba, China, New York City or Mexico.  Upon arriving at their destination students found cards on the table that gave them questions to ask the person sitting across from them.  This format allowed students to meet someone new or get to know a friend or acquaintance in a new way. 

The lunch culminated with students writing on a giant board, bearing the words "Nessacus Celebrates CommUNITY".  Students wrote positive statements about their peers they just talked with.  The experience is one that forces students out of their comfort zones and to connect with someone new.  It's a simple act that can have a deep impact, as studies show interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice.  When students interact with someone who is different than them, bias and misperception diminish.