INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — When's the last time you asked your kids who they're sitting with at lunch these days? If it's been a while, you might want to consider asking them that question when they get home from school.
Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 is "No One Eats Alone Day." Last year, more than 1 million students participated across the country.
Ellie Millis knows all too well what it's like for students to feel isolated during social situations. The 16-year-old joined the Young Actors Theatre three years ago. With the group, she performs mini-skits about bullying and social isolation.
"You’re not alone, and it's not your fault," Millis said. "You can get through it and things do get better."
That's just one message from the 16-year-old.
"We found that it's better when three kids are on stage giving them this performance and this message than an adult saying, 'Don't be mean to other people,'" Millis.
Some stories even come from personal experiences shared by people in Young Actors Theatre.
"It really hits them harder," Millis said. "We perform this on No One Eats Alone Day, and we eat lunch with the kids afterwards and let the kids sit with different people that day. It turns into people making new friends, talking to new people and just learning new things about each other."
Millis quickly discovered what a difference one day can make.
"The coolest thing I've learned from all of this is that it started with me doing something that I love, and now it's turned into this thing where I can really send this positive message and help other people."
Young Actors Theatre will perform at Stout Field Elementary Friday. Managed Health Services sponsors No One Eats Alone Day. WTHR has partnered with MHS to create "A Seat at the Table" to offer an open, honest conversation about inclusion and making sure no one eats alone.
It's a tradition that began in 2018 when the women of WTHR went to a Franklin Township middle school to eat with a student on her 13th birthday. Her name is Lonna, and she was often bullied by her classmates.
Wednesday marks exactly two years since the surprise visit. Ahead of her 15th birthday, Lonna had some words of wisdom to share since her "girl power" lunch.
"Don't put up a front, be yourself, and find a friend with similar interests you can connect with. Join something that puts you in a community, like a club or sport. That way you're with people who have something in common. And never forget, the best people to lean on are your family."
Lonna is now a freshman and a member of the Japanese Culture Club, the Gardening Club and her high school's color guard, where she's made lots of new friends.