Last Friday, a Bellerose public school kicked off Respect for All Week with a virtual assembly in recognition of No One Eats Alone Day.
To help celebrate, P.S./I.S. 266 invited Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and “Fresh Off the Boat” star Hudson Yang, who participated in a Q&A centered around his experiences with bullying. Also in attendance was Laura Talmus, the founder of Beyond Differences and its No One Eats Alone Day initiative.
Talmus said the day honors her daughter Lili Smith, who was born with cranial facial syndrome and faced social isolation during middle school. Smith died in 2009 but Talmus said that No One Eats Alone Day helps to ensure that children all over the country feel “included every single day.”
Prior to the virtual assembly, students watched a clip from the ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat,” about a Taiwanese-American family living in Florida in the 1990s. Students then got the opportunity to ask Yang, one of the show’s stars, questions about his own experiences.
“I think [bullying] happens to a lot of kids these days because it happened to me in real life,” Yang said.
Yang grew up in a Taiwanese-American family in New York City and recalled that other children bullied him for his ethnicity and his acting career.
“The main reason why it’s important to stand up for each other is because you never know what’s going on behind someone’s mask. Everyone wears a mask to cover their emotions and you never really know how someone is feeling unless you go up and talk to them,” said Yang, adding that conversations with his bullies led to them finding common ground.
The actor added that although most people can’t avoid getting bullied, the “best way to get justice for yourself is just be successful” and not let other people’s words and actions cause long-term negative effects.
Carranza shared a similarly uplifting message about growing through feelings of isolation with a story from his childhood. The chancellor shared that as a native Spanish speaker, his first year in kindergarten was “isolating” since his classmates only spoke English.
“So I remember the first few weeks of school, I really didn’t have a lot of my fellow students that I could talk to or share things with on the playground. It was kind of isolating — they weren’t doing it on purpose but I still remember what it felt like to be isolated,” Carranza said.
Eventually, Carranza recalled that continuous playground interactions with the other kids led him to make friends and improve his English.
Respect for All Week continues in all DOE schools until Thursday, Feb. 11.