Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mix It Up Day encourages Wiregrass students to experience diversity

Mitchell Phelps, center, visited these girls Thursday during Wiregrass Ranch High’s “Mix It Up Day,” as students lunched with someone unfamiliar. The girls are Megan Javier, left, Lindsey Clayton, Clarissa Monaco and Dalia Abouelenin.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Mitchell Phelps, center, visited these girls Thursday during Wiregrass Ranch High’s “Mix It Up Day,” as students lunched with someone unfamiliar. The girls are Megan Javier, left, Lindsey Clayton, Clarissa Monaco and Dalia Abouelenin.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Guidance counselor Meredith Jones stood just outside the Wiregrass Ranch High cafeteria Thursday morning, handing out brightly colored table passes to each student who came in for lunch.

"Mix it up!" Jones told the puzzled looking teens.

Rather than sit at their usual tables with their usual groups, the kids were encouraged to step outside their comfort zone and meet someone new.

It's part of a national effort sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project.

"We get a lot of new kids and a lot of new faces," principal Ray Bonti said of his growing suburban school. "It's important for kids to experience diversity."

With nearly 1,800 students, Wiregrass Ranch is Pasco's third-largest high school. Slightly more than 46 percent of the students are not white, making the school also Pasco's most racially diverse.

That does not stop the teens from separating themselves in that most cliquish of places, the school cafeteria, where guidance department chairman Glenn Cable said he can draw a map of where to find the different groups each lunch period.

But Thursday, many gamely went along with the "getting to know you" initiative.

Senior Kalen Wright met fellow seniors Elyse Houston and Kayshla Ayala for the first time at the Mix It Up lunch.

"This is a big school," Elyse said.

She admitted to being slightly nervous about approaching strangers. That's why she brought Kayshla along.

"But they seem like really interesting people, so it will be nice to get to know them," she said.

Kalen agreed.

"I think it's actually quite cool," he said of the event. "You get to meet different personalities at the school and make new friends."

Clarissa Monaco, an exchange student from Brazil, found the activity particularly helpful. She enjoyed talking with different people and also asking them questions as part of the Mix It Up bingo game. The students were to try to find others who shared their interests using a bingo card as a guide.

Those who completed a line first won small prizes.

"I usually sit with a group of people that I met in acting class," she said. "At first it was really difficult to make friends. This is really great. I like it."

Not everyone shared in the enthusiasm.

"This is our free time, and we want to be with our friends," said sophomore Heather Ford, who sat with the same girls she's eaten lunch with for two years.

Freshman Brelyn Davis attempted to get her bingo card filled out by visiting other tables, but retreated to her group after getting nowhere.

"Most people are not into Unity Day. They want to sit with their friends and they don't really care about the game," said Brelyn, a purple-haired girl with Halloween-themed braces (orange and black bands) who explained she aims to be different.

Her friend, Robbie Carr, loaded down with chains and bracelets, didn't even try, saying he's been called enough names by people who don't know him.

"It's a good concept, but you need to have it be more monitored or in a smaller group," Robbie, also a freshman, said.

Between bites of spaghetti, salads and pizza, many students said they feel like Wiregrass Ranch already mixes it up plenty without much encouragement.

"People here have more respect for each other" than at other schools, said junior Josie McCrary, who attended a different high school last year.

Freshman Amber Grace, who shared lunch with Josie, shared that view.

"It's like seniors wouldn't be caught dead with the freshmen," she said. "But here, everybody hangs with everybody. It's cool."

As students streamed out to their next classes after lunch, one boy shouted out, "Nice meeting you guys!" A girl remarked to her friends, "We met a whole bunch of new people."

Listening in, the counselors smiled at one another and expressed pleasure at a job well done, if only for a day.

Several other Pasco middle and high schools planned to participate in Mix It Up, though many did not have their activities on Thursday. They included River Ridge Middle, Pine View Middle, Gulf High and Wesley Chapel High.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Mix It Up Day encourages Wiregrass students to experience diversity 11/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kriseman and Baker cash races continues as campaigns officially reset

    Blogs

    The mayoral campaign, mostly operating in stealth mode during the two weeks of Hurricane Irma's build-up, arrival and recovery, has entered its stretch run, a compressed schedule of ten days before ballots are mailed to tens of thousands of voters in the Sunshine City.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker are emerging from Hurricane Irma mode and getting back into campaign form
  2. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  3. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday

    Wildlife

    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  4. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  5. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]