Students working together on computer

This month, Solomon implemented a student mentoring program that partners up young students in kindergarten through sixth grade with “buddies,” in seventh to twelfth grade. The buddies are partnered strategically so that the pair can stay together as they grow up through the school system. The seniors are partnered with 6th graders, so as the seniors graduate, their 6th grade partner will transition from Little to Big. 

The buddy program offers many different benefits for students of all ages. For the younger students, it gives them positive role models and someone in the school that they can look up to to offer guidance and support. It also helps to build a sense of community in the school, creating a network of connections for students. Fourth-grade student, Serenitie Sopera, a Little, expressed, “It is going really well, and I know that a lot of people are really liking their buddies and I really like my buddy a lot.” 

This is also a learning experience for older students taking on the role of the Big. It provides them with leadership opportunities, encourages the development of patience, and familiarizes them with working and communicating with diverse individuals. It can also be a personally rewarding experience to help others and contribute to the growth of another student. High school junior, Andrew Gray who has two buddies from the fifth grade, said “I think it is pretty fun hanging out with little kids and playing games with them.” He noted that even just in the two meetings that they have had, his Littles are starting to open up more and that he has enjoyed listening to their stories. 

The program, inspired by a previous similar initiative called Gorilla Families was initiated by the Imagine Now committee. The committee consists of staff members and administrators from all school levels. Together they collaborate to strategize and plan activities in line with the school’s long-term objectives. One member of the committee is librarian Sarah Riordan, who contributed significantly by aiding in the completion of lesson plans and potential student activities. Among the skills the program aims to develop in students are perseverance, respect, and responsibility. Riordan mentioned plans for continuous enhancement, stating,  “After we have done it a little bit longer we will send out a survey to teachers, just to get feedback and see what is working or not working. Hopefully improving it for the years to come,” Riordan said. 

Administrators noted that once the grade level pairings were established, it was left to the teachers to best make decisions regarding student partnerships. Teachers sat down together during a recent staff workday and discussed students’ personalities, interests, and areas where mentorship could be beneficial. High School Principal, Liz Krause, shared her delight with the program’s impact, noting, “Most of the time, when you walk into a classroom [students] are just focused in on work. It made me smile when I walked into the rooms, just to hear their conversations and see them laughing, and to see that connection that they already had in two weeks.” Superintendent Justin Coup added, “I like seeing the younger kids show a huge interest in the big kids and pushing the big kids out of their comfort zone. It gives every kid an opportunity to help out and be looked up to.” 

The feeling of community and the positive connections observed by administrators and teachers in a brief period showcase the program’s ability to create progressive change. It signifies a future where students thrive, learn collaboratively, and construct a supportive, empowering environment, paving the way for a brighter journey forward.