NU lunch walks open campus to community
To increase community accessibility to Nevada Union High School's campus, principal Dan Frisella is inviting parents, residents, educators and community stakeholders to take a walk with him during the students' lunch hour. "I just wanted to give the community access to the school," Frisella said. "And I wanted the community to be able to see our kids and get a chance to visit the place that the kids spend the majority of their days." Frisella said he began giving the lunch walks this year; he came up with the idea over the summer, as he explored different ways to give more people a chance to experience the culture and climate while being on campus. In his first year as principal, Frisella also wanted to be able to get access to the community while trying to improve communication between NU's administration and the community at large. "To be with them and finding time within my school day allows me to do that with them here," Frisella said. "It also increases their investment in the school to actually see and feel what the school is like." Held from 11:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, the lunch walks are open to anyone who schedules to attend through the principal's office. Visitors sign in at the school's front office, then meet Frisella in the main hallway to begin a tour of the campus. "I tend to ask people what they want to see on the campus first," Frisella said. "That way, I can take them around and gauge their interests as we go. I also like to showcase our impressive areas on campus to give them a sense of what we can offer students, to let them know, if you're a student with an interest in anything, we have it here." Community members interested in taking a tour of the cafeteria can take a walk with Frisella into the back of the kitchen to see the food that is being served. Frisella said lunch activities and programs like culinary arts, painting, pottery, wood shop, and dance are available for lunch walk participants to sit in on. NU Librarian Jill Sonnenberg offers students a place to socialize and have their lunches while participating in games such as double-dutch and ping-pong. Sonnenberg said the lunch walks have given people outside of the school a chance to see what the library has to offer students, specifically since NU enacted a closed campus policy this year. "We feel glad to be more open to the community and we're glad to show the library to the community, because the kids are here and we want them to see that they're welcomed," Sonnenberg said. "I think Mr. Frisella has increased the level of transparency around what's happening at the school, and that can only be a good thing." Nevada City School District Superintendent Roxanne Gilpatric did a lunch walk with Frisella several weeks ago. "The perception that I took away when I was leaving campus is that it is a gentle place," Gilpatric said. "No matter where we went, I saw groups of students and everybody appeared happy. Students have an opportunity to be engaged, or just to be by themselves during lunch. So I walked away with a really nice feeling about the kids on campus." Mark Rindels, pastor at First Baptist Church in Grass Valley, did a lunch walk with Frisella and said he was impressed by the sense of community that the students and faculty had in their interactions with each other. "I think a lot of times we have an incorrect impression of the way schools are," Rindels said. "But going on campus and just experiencing it firsthand gives you a feel for the good quality of education that is taking place at Nevada Union." While it has been just over a month since the school year started, Frisella said he has gotten great feedback. "People are surprised about how happy the kids are on campus," Frisella said. "They're blown away about all the programs we have on campus, they leave excited about the facilities that are here for both their kids and the rest of the community. It's been overwhelmingly positive." Grass Valley resident Marty Lombardi, who recently donated picnic benches for students to use during lunch, attended a lunch walk Thursday and said the lunch walk opens the campus up to community members in a positive way. "He wants the community to view this place as their high school. Not all academic institutions do that," Lombardi said. "The lunch walks facilitate so much more social interaction between the school and the community." To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.