Sometimes it’s tough to talk to people you don’t know, but if you push yourself to do it, you might be surprised. Some students at Mears Middle School learned that lesson on Tuesday when they took part in a national event called Mix it up at Lunch Day.

School counselor Michelle Keller said it’s a day dedicated to getting to know new people by sitting with them at the lunch table. She said the conversation could start a connection that could help cut down on bullying.

“I think kids tend to make assumptions and make stereotypes about others just because they don’t know them,” Keller said. “So this is another opportunity where they might see them in the halls or they’ve seen them on the bus, but they’ve never made a relationship with them.”

Students were assigned seating with random letters that represented specific tables. Conversation starters — lists of questions at each table — helped to get the ball rolling.

Some students said they enjoyed meeting new friends, others seemed nervous about talking at all. Most of the tables had staff who made sure no students were being ignored.

Mears has celebrated the national day for the last 10 years and Keller said students often leave with a new understanding of their peers.

“At first sometimes they are wary because they’re kids and they don’t want to do anything outside the box,” Keller said. “But [when it ends] they always ask, ‘can we do it again?’”

Mears said the event is always held on the last Tuesday in October and coincides with the end of Bullying Awareness Month.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.