STOCKTON—On Feb. 9, students of Hamilton Elementary learned a lesson. This one was not a typical classroom lesson, however.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to students at the South Stockton school about social isolation as part of the National No One Eats Alone initiative.
The No One Eats Alone initiative is dedicated to teaching children how to be inclusive. It is sponsored by Health Net and was created by the nonprofit program Beyond Differences.
Social isolation can have negative impacts on a person’s health and academic performance.
“We as individuals have to step out of ourselves,” Muñoz said. “I look around this auditorium, and it looks a lot like the neighborhood I grew up in. I don’t have all the answers, but … I can share some things that have helped me in life.”
The ex-Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman spoke on his upbringing in culturally diverse Southern California and how reaching out to others can help everyone have a better future.
Tubbs, who attended Hamilton as a child, said his own experiences helped him how to be more accepting of others.
“I didn’t know a single person here. The first day of school, I was terrified,” Tubbs recalled his childhood when he attended Hamilton. “So, I sat by myself. Luckily, this guy, who is one of my best friends now came up to me and said, ‘Hey, man, you wanna hoop?’”
That experience opened a circle of friends for Tubbs. That, coupled with an experience he had in kindergarten befriending a child he once bullied, taught him the value of including others.
“You guys hold tremendous power,” Tubbs said to the students. “The power is this, as Mr. Muñoz said, you have the power to be a model for this city and for the rest of this nation by how you treat people, even if they look different than you.”
Hamilton Elementary, which has about 870 students enrolled this year, is one of the schools in Stockton Unified School District that uses the Peer Leaders Uniting Students (PLUS) program. The goal of PLUS is to create an environment of inclusion throughout the district.
Counselor Jillian Glende said there are about 1,200 students participating in PLUS. When Health Net approached them about No One Eats Alone, it was a natural fit.
“I was so excited when I learned our school was being invited to participate in the No One Eats Alone Initiative, especially on its nationally recognized day. I think that’s such a treat because it really aligns with the efforts we already have when we look at raising awareness on social isolation,” said Mary Pedraza, principal of Hamilton.