By Teri Vance

When Jason Jia grabbed his lunch Thursday morning at Eagle Valley Middle School, he found a place to sit alone at a table in the cafeteria. That’s not unusual for the 12-year-old who moved to Carson City last year from China.

“It’s hard to find a group to sit with so sometimes I sit by myself,” he said. “It’s a little bit hard because of the language problem.”

On Thursday, however, a group of students in the Students Offering Additional Resources club invited him to sit with them as part of No One Eats Alone Day.

“It’s so no one is left out and everyone has a friend to talk to,” said Kylie Carrigan, 13. “No one feels upset.”

The SOAR club offers students service and other community-oriented activities as a means to remain drug- and alcohol-free.

While the No One Eats Alone Day fell on Feb. 15, the school recognized it this week because of a scheduling conflict.

Samantha Szoyka, youth program coordinator for Partnership Carson City and club adviser, said the primary focus is to bring students together.

“It’s an effort to end social isolation and all the negative consequences that can come from that, like bullying and mental-health issues,” Szoyka said. “In turn, we want to promote social inclusion.”

Leah Shine, 11, said it was a good chance to practice the skill of making new friends.

“Sometimes when I meet new people, I’m shy,” she said. “Then when I get to know them more we become really good friends and we start making more friends together.”

And the timing is perfect.

“In high school, there might be more bullying,” she said. “It’s good to make friends now so you’ll have them going into high school.”

Cruz Bulmer, a Carson High School junior who volunteers with Partnership Carson City, said he hopes the initiative will extend past the one day.

“I hope it opens up their confidence to approach people and not be afraid,” he said. “It’ll make it easier for them to do it again.”