Program pairs younger, older students

Published 10:34 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

Fifty local ninth-graders made the day of 50 local kindergartners Friday.

Each of the students at River City Early College High School were paired with a kindergarten student from both Tammy Tillotson and Deandria Sylvester’s Sherman Avenue Elementary School classes. The partnerships weren’t just for a day, but are meant to last the next four years as the older students will serve as pen pals and mentors to their young buddy.

“We’ll do activities and invite them back and go visit them,” RCECHS guidance counselor Marian Richardson said.

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Friday’s event was called Holly Day where the buddies had an hour to participate in several activities in the RCECHS wing of the Hinds Community College campus. From a dancing room, to story time beside a virtual fire, then the candy cane walk, cookie decorating, face painting and corn hole, the groups of students played the afternoon away in their allotted amount of time at each station.

“We are treating them to a day, it’s called Holly Day, and its time to celebrate, it’s all about them. It’s all about engaging with them and helping them have fun and to be joyful,” Richardson said.

Student Mariyah Marte said the Holly Day event was important for her classmates to share with the kindergarteners because it was a time to lift everyone’s spirits and enjoy the season.

“We’re trying to bring happiness to little kindergarteners and give them a fun, early Christmas,” she said. “My Jaci, she’s sweet and quiet, and I think she’s really enjoying it.”

Marte’s buddy Jaci Ashley said she was having fun, and the day was going good. Tillotson was excited her students were getting extra attention and guidance from someone other than their parents and teachers.

“It’s such a wonderful idea because so many of our children don’t have that extra someone,” Tillotson said. “It’s just nice to have a big brother or a big sister for them to be connected to.”

Leland Funches and Glennial Thomas stood hand in hand watching a group of buddies participate in the candy cane walk. Funches was looking forward to being there for Thomas over the years and to teach him.

“It’s going good. He’s a good kid,” Funches said. “I’m going to write him letters and keep in touch with him.”

When asked about his new buddy, Thomas said he was excited about him and having a good time.

RCECHS principal Tammy Burris said it was important for her students to learn about giving through service to others.

“I think it’s great for these kids to give back,” she said, adding as teenagers, high school students can be self-centered. “They’re thinking about other people and bringing happiness to these kids, and I think it’s great. They helped plan everything. They were very excited about today.”

Burris thinks these friendships will last longer than four years, possibly a lifetime.