By Dr. Debra Cradduck, Principal Paradise Canyon Elementary
We can all think back, to a moment in our past, when we met someone who influenced our lives. For some of us, it was a parent, a friend, or even a neighbor. For the kindergarten and first grade students at Paradise Canyon, they have their fourth and sixth grade buddies. One of the longest, ongoing traditions at PCY has been the buddy program. The buddy program was implemented as a way for upper grade students to acquire leadership skills, while mentoring some of the youngest faces on campus. It comes as no surprise that this is one of the most highly anticipated and cherished programs for students in their years as a PCY Cougar.
It takes a tremendous amount of planning and collaboration between the grade levels (first and fourth grades, Kinder and sixth grade), for the teachers to put together meaningful opportunities for their students. During the first few weeks of school, the upper grade students are assigned to a younger buddy they will work with throughout the year. Then about once a month and on special occasions, teachers craft special projects and lessons to build leadership, foster care, and provide a platform for collaborative learning.
In an interview with fourth grade students, Jackson Norton and Holly Hong, in Mrs. Arbucci’s class, further insight about the joys of participating in the buddy program were revealed. Jackson recalled at their first meeting he and his buddy shared what they were hoping to do together this year. Jackson shared, “My buddy said he really wanted to work on math with me this year, and I really want to play soccer with him.” More than having a helping hand in the classroom, Jackson recognized that it was about creating exciting memories that they both could reflect on in the years to come.
Holly Hong recalled being in first grade herself and having fond memories of her fourth grade buddy who really showed her care and kindness. Holly stated, “I remember having fun with my fourth grade buddy, and I now think it’s really hard work. I’m not really used to taking care of a first grade buddy, but I think it will be something I can learn how to do and hopefully I’ll be good at it when I do it again in sixth grade.” Holly and Jackson also said they also enjoyed seeing their buddies around the PCY campus. Holly shared, “It’s always fun when we walk by during their lunch time and they recognize us and wave to us. It’s a good feeling.” And Jackson refers to their first grade buddies as “little brother and sisters” that the fourth graders get to look out for and that the school really comes together when the students act as one big family.
Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McClure, shared about the excitement the Kindergarten students experience when they know their buddies are coming. “This is a mentorship program for the school. They [kindergarteners] look up them [sixth graders] to tell them the directions and explain concepts to them in their own way. And it’s great for the sixth graders because they have this little person that is excited to see them, no matter what. They are the experienced ones who can do no wrong in the eyes [of the kindergarteners].” Having previously taught sixth grade for several years, Mrs. McClure shared that it is a really special experience for sixth graders to come back to the kindergarten yard where many of them grew up. It’s sentimental for them to reflect on their own kindergarten experiences, remember their time in their treasured kindergarten classes, and work to pass along those special experiences to the newest PCY students.
Having a designated buddy program helps to foster a culture of care and positivity on our school campus. It provides students with the opportunity to create organic and meaningful relationships with children of all ages. While top quality education and rigor are emphasized in our classes daily, we must never forget what is at the center of the most powerful elementary memories --- positive relationships with those around you. Many years down the road, it is our hope that PCY students will think back to precious memories created with their buddies, and smile.