Students — big and small — learn from buddy program

Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

December 19, 2013

Students at L.C. Kerr Elementary School and Sampson Middle School have teamed up in the Big Buddies/Little Buddies program to bring some Christmas cheer to nursing homes in the area. Tuesday the students worked on gingerbread house Christmas cards, writing greetings inside wishing those in the nursing homes a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

“This is a great opportunity,” noted Greg Dirks, the principal at Sampson Middle School. “They have been doing this for years.”

This activity is a part of the Big Buddy/Little Buddy program where the students visit each other to see what the others are doing in the classroom, work on special assignments, as well as create lasting impressions on each other. This program between the Clinton schools has been going on for years, and some of the students that are Big Buddies this year once were little buddies themselves, with mentors of their own.

Noah Brock says that his Little Buddy experience has been great and it reminds him of all the good memories he had of first grade with his own mentor buddy. He said that he has loved being a Big Buddy and that it is a lot of fun. He says that they have had some good times and that they are best friends. Brock describes his Little Buddy, Jamarian, as being an amazing little buddy. Brock said that he will miss it next year. Brock is a seventh grade student at Sampson Middle School.

“This is neat for the kids,” said Dirks. “This is great for community involvement.” Throughout the year the groups tackle a variety of tasks, and the teachers, who meet regularly, communicate needs to each other often through email. If the younger students need help with spelling words, the older kids can step in and work with them until they figure out what they need to learn.

Often they send cards between the classes, as well as letters.

Wendy Butler said that one time the students made a short story book together.

On Tuesday, the first grade classes performed for their school and the groups co-mingled in the crowd, with Big and Little Buddies sitting side by side. The students seemed to enjoy the performance even more having the chance to spend that extra time with their buddies. Each visit lasts between an hour to an hour and half.

The group also has a special goal this year — to purchase iPads for both schools. The iPads would enable the students to Skype together and talk back and forth while in the classroom, so that they can see what each other is working on, allowing the younger students to get an idea of what it is like to be in seventh grade. The schools are working on grants and extra funding as well to get the tablets.

“The older students find themselves having to be the responsible ones,” said Rebecca Warren. “This draws out their communication skills.” Since some of the students may not have siblings, this is an opportunity for them to get a chance to be the one looking out for the younger students.” The interaction between the older and the younger students clearly causes the seventh graders to flourish in the program, added Warren.

Butler said that the students have also taken the time to purchase Christmas presents for each other. She said that when the students have to say goodbye for the last time there is often tears. It is evident that both sets of students form an attachment and that they enjoy each other’s company tremendously.

Jadell Holmes, a seventh grade student at Sampson Middle School, says that he has ‘lots of fun’ with his Little Buddy, Ethan Matthis. Holmes describes his young friend as social, smart, and fun, someone who likes soccer and baseball. Students get to know each other through different exercises, including interviews. Things like favorite colors and TV shows are discussed, and the kids see what each other has in common. Some like the same animated characters or foods.

Holmes said that visiting with Ethan was time well spent and that they had lots of fun learning about each other. Warren said that the students have already had two or three visits already and that they look forward to more visits to further develop their relationships with each other. Warren said sometimes they work on flash cards together or reading or math skills. The teachers that are in this project keep the activities in line with what the students are working on in class, and keep them parallel with their curriculum. For example, in the poetry activity the older students were able to explain the processes of making a poem and teach the younger students the steps to follow like making a rough draft and editing, said Warren.

“This program is ran by a team of teachers,” said Warren. The group meets regularly to discuss the needs of the classrooms. There will be a critique after Christmas of the program.

“Our goal is to make sure the program stays the best it can possibly be,” said Warren. She said that communication is very important between the staff.

Big Buddy Maegan Lamb only met her buddy a month ago and she said she was shocked by how well they were able to listen and follow directions. She said it was amazing to walk up to these first graders not knowing anything about them and then leave as close friends. She said that she ended up realizing they had a lot more in common than she initially thought.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at