Friday, April 21, 2023

Buddy mentoring program promotes leadership, teamwork among students

By Jolene Bailey

People can thrive off companionship during their lifetime, especially for young minds creating their future. Often people will surround themselves with friends, or people they look up to. Those role models can have an impact on minds and in a social aspect, friends can help each other in creating intelligence. That’s one of the reasons classrooms can often contain activities such as group work and special guest speakers.

Windham Middle School eighth-grade students work with
Windham Primary School second graders during a Buddy
Mentoring session in the cafeteria at Windham Middle 
School earlier this month. The program pairs older students
with younger kids in an effort to develop leadership skills
while providing role models for elementary students.
As an example of this, Windham Primary and Middle School’s Buddy Mentoring Program is a partnership between the eighth-grade students assisting second graders by teaching leadership and role modeling to younger children.

“The buddy program is important to me because I can make a difference in one more person's life,” said Eva Vancelette, an eighth grader.

These meetings between the WMS and WPS students are held once a month and feature science and math experiments, but the program emphasizes creating relationships between the older and younger students in the classrooms.

Demonstrating what this means from a student point of view, eighth-grade participant Parker Sperry said it’s great for some younger students to have someone to look up to.

“The buddy system is great because it gives the younger kids a chance to have an older sibling figure that maybe they don't have at home,” Sperry said.

For the eighth graders, taking on a leadership role teaches them how to be more respectful and responsible with their words and actions toward others. The WMS students learn about morals and values while creating new friendships at the same time. Research has shown that buddy programs are an effective way to help encourage a positive, sibling-like relationship between students. The program strives to instill social and emotional learning and is a way for teachers to accelerate crucial development of associated social and emotional skills while boosting self-esteem, self-determination and self-advocacy among students.

As of this year, four middle school teachers and three second grade teachers have come together to be involved and continue this program, which has been in existence for more than a decade.

“Middle school students have connected with many peers and established a working relationship with someone younger,” said Pam Mallard, eighth grade coordinator. “Community spirit is established in a positive manner. Students will often ask when the next meeting is out of excitement.”

The program’s monthly meeting involves about 160 students, tripling participation from about 50 students when the program started.

Bebe King, the program’s second-grade coordinator, said that the younger students benefit tremendously from this opportunity.

“We have seen learners who are normally reserved and quiet form an instant bond with their buddy,” King said. “We have seen students who are new be paired with an eighth grader who is also new to the district, which has helped them navigate the emotions of being the ‘new kid’ and become positive connections for each other.”

With these kids being a part of the community and the school district’s future, it’s important for them to be able gain a sense of themself and their skills.

“The fact I get to be a part of a younger generation's life makes my day,” eighth-grade participant Kaylee Napolitano said.

King said that the bonds formed between the students has worked wonders for some in positive and beneficial ways.

“We have seen students who struggle to make connections instantly gravitate towards their middle school buddy and make lasting connections,” King said. “Overall, we have seen success in the program’s ability to provide a sense of community within our schools and foster feelings of confidence in our students.” <

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