Mentoring is usually thought of as teaming up someone “older and wiser” with a younger person to help guide them in their life’s journey. But in the Greenfield Exempted Village School District mentoring has taken on a new image of a high school student offering guidance and support to a fellow elementary or middle school pupil at lunchtime.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of South Central Ohio recently began a mentoring program called “Lunch Buddies” that meets every Thursday at McClain High School from noon to 1 p.m.
The Lunch Buddies program pairs a group of high school students called “Bigs” with elementary and/or middle school students called “Littles” to allow for one-on-one mentoring.
Sherry Parker is a school-based mentoring specialist with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Chillicothe. She told The Times-Gazette the program is enjoying great success in its first year.
“This program’s focus is on kids, the littles, who come from what we could call ‘compromised home environments,’” she said. “These are children who have lost parents, living in foster care, come from low income households, and they need help with schoolwork, have self-esteem issues, or are being bullied. These are students who need a little encouragement from older students who they look up to.”
Breanne Johnson is another mentoring specialist who works with Parker, and she said maturity and leadership play a big role in selecting “bigs” for the Lunch Buddies program.
“We want these teens to set a good example and be good role models for the littles,” she said. “Typically they’re members of the National Honor Society, student-athletes or leaders in various school programs, and it also satisfies the volunteer work requirement for seniors for graduation.”
The qualities that Big Brothers/Big Sisters looks for in the program can be found in McClain senior Bryn Karnes, who is not only the reigning Highland County Fair queen, but is also a “big” in the program.
“The little girl I mentor is named Savannah, and she’s in the fifth grade,” Karnes said. “Within FFA, I started giving back when I was freshman and for me, you get those warm and fuzzy feelings when you help others, and in mentoring little kids, you get to know them and their lives, and they’ll talk to you literally about everything going on.”
Another “big” in the McClain Lunch Buddies program is Justin Hall of South Salem, who spends his lunch time with a 10-year-old Anderson McCune of Greenfield.
Hall is the Ross County Jr. Fair King and like Karnes, enjoys the program’s philosophy of giving back and making a difference in a young person’s life.
“We have a lunch period five days a week,” he said. “And every Thursday, I get to eat my lunch with someone who really is my best friend, and we get to talk about anything we want to and I get to make sure this little guy is doing OK in school.”
Eight-year old Angel Merritt is a third-grader at McClain and is like a little sister to sophomore Maysun Faulconer, who enjoys community service opportunities like those offered through the FFA and her local church, Greater Life Assembly in the Rocky Fork Lake.
“I like doing things for other people and in the last mission trips I’ve been on, I’ve worked in nursing homes, children’s centers and in soup kitchens,” she said. “And I love being a big sister to Angel because a little sister needs to have someone to share secrets with.”
The Lunch Buddies program is already being used in seven regional school districts, Johnson added, with three more expected to join the list in the fall. The program is provided through a grant from the Paint Valley ADAMH Board.
More information on the program for schools and individuals can be found at www.bbbssco.org, by calling 740-773-2447 or by email at [email protected]
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.