Monday, April 30, 2018

Ukiah High Milk Club: Building community over bowls of Lucky Charms

I recently visited with a group of students at Ukiah High School that meet once a week to enjoy milk with cereal and cookies. They call themselves the Milk Club.

That was cool.

Club president John Gonzalez admitted that many of the kids first came to the club because of “the absurdity” of it, then stay because of the supportive culture.
“It’s just a great place to have lunch,” said one student, and Gonzalez said he chose the classroom they meet in because it has lots of circular tables where students can eat in small groups like a family around a dinner table.
While the students eat bowls of Lucky Charms (some choose the healthier cereal options available) they often invite members of other clubs to speak, a practice Gonzalez said is meant to create a sense of community, rather than competition, among the students.
Making a practice of sitting down to eat with people who arent members of their current club will serve these students well when navigating a world full of people who dont think like them, and who now more than ever seem divided into tribes that spend no time listening to, let alone trying to understand, the other side.
Because sitting down and talking with someone over food is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build connections with anyone: your family, your co-workers and every other human we share the earth with. And even if you’ll never agree on who should be president or that Lucky Charms are magically delicious (theyre not, Frosted Flakes have all the magic), odds are you can always find to something to agree on, even if it’s only your favorite ice cream flavor.

What was even cooler than watching the kids sit down together and enjoying cold cereal, however, was the behavior Gonzalez was modeling outside of the club, which was more respectful and considerate than most adults three times his age. After realizing he couldn’t keep the first appointment we made over the phone, he tracked me down online and suggested we meet two weeks later. The evening before our appointment, he sent me a very polite and friendly reminder.
After I met with the group, he sent me some more helpful information and an enthusiastic thank you for attending, followed by a final thank you from the club when the article came out (featuring a handmade card put in an envelope made out of a recycled paper grocery bag).
Of course, I don’t need to be thanked for doing my job, but it was much appreciated.
In a time when so many people seem to just be lying in wait for the next the psychic wound to be inflicted on them by their fellow humans, it was inspiring to meet a teenager so focused on what he could do for others, then leading by example.
I sincerely wished him luck in his future endeavors, but I doubt he will need it.

Coolest of all, however, was when a couple of kids came near the end. Neither of them drank cow milk because one was vegan and one opposed to dairy milk for “environmental reasons,” but they still came because they felt the club was more about friends spending time together than anything else.
And then they entertained those friends by one picking up his trombone and sounding like a car accelerating and the second acting like he was shifting gears and steering.
When I showed my husband the video I took of their pantomime, he exclaimed, “Could those kids BE more wholesome?!” 
No, I dont think they could.

Read the story here.