“Corvette!” shouts sophomore Chris Penovatz as he selects a red card from the Apples to Apples pile, choosing a motor vehicle as his favorite pick. Other students surround him, and though they usually keep to themselves, here they can laugh along and enjoy the company.
Lunch Bunch has just begun.
It is lunch time on a Friday, and students have gathered in Room 12 for pizza, board games and a multitude of opportunities to make new friends and social connections. Managed by resource specialist Diana Govan and speech and language pathologist Denise Masica, Lunch Bunch is also made possible by a group of sociable upperclassmen.
What exactly is Lunch Bunch? Govan weighs in.
“It is an atmosphere of emotional safety that allows kids that are shy or holding back to participate and express themselves,” the teacher says. “The people who have volunteered to help are caring people who naturally reach out to help others.”
The environment especially benefits those who, according to longtime member Nick Garofono, “have difficulties communicating at first.” Garofono has been coming to meetings since the start of the club last year, and the senior has been integral in its foundation.
Masica, who specializes in assisting students in speech and language, says that “because of the same people, same setting and predictable games, it is a familiar place.”
“Each week we get a few new people,” Masica says, “and then there are our regulars.”
One regular, senior Meg Schimmel, has helped to foster many relationships in Lunch Bunch.
“We get to see different people that we don’t normally hang out with,” Schimmel says. “Without this we probably wouldn’t have gotten to know each other.”
The students who attend the club weekly have similar sentiments.
“I like it,” says sophomore Isabelle Burke, who enjoys attending and playing the various games. “I like people coming every week.”
So does sophomore Michael Ross, whose favorite aspects of Lunch Bunch are “pizza, hanging out with classmates and the fun games!”
Penovatz enjoys his visits to Lunch Bunch because, as he puts it, “you’re part of a secret club.”
Well, it’s not quite so secret now, but it still remains a safe place for students to improve language and social skills and for mentors to aid them in this process.
Garofono, part of the club for a year, credits Link Crew experience for his expertise as a mentor. This would explain the presence of fellow Leadership seniors Lily Trytten, Colette Hamwey and Schimmel, who have spent many Fridays with the Lunch Bunch group.
“You get to see more diverse personalities,” Garofono says of attending the club. “We play Apples to Apples, Uno and a lot of card games. We build a lot of conversations and talk about pretty intellectual things.”
Trytten, who will graduate this year, already misses the amazing friendships she has acquired in Lunch Bunch.
“It has been an amazing opportunity for all of us involved,” she says. “It’s so rewarding to go in every Friday and hear them talk about their weekend plans or their classes. I’m going to miss it.”
Masica adds, “We hope there is some carry-over to other parts of campus.”