Madison teens mentor ‘Breakfast Buddies’ at Columbia elementary

These students from James Clemens and Bob Jones high schools volunteer as Breakfast Buddies with students at Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)
These students from James Clemens and Bob Jones high schools volunteer as Breakfast Buddies with students at Columbia Elementary School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Since last October, teenagers from Madison high schools have been cultivating rapport with their “Breakfast Buddies” at Columbia Elementary School.

The idea originated during a professional development session at James Clemens High School led by Tosha and Cyrus Swearingen. She teaches kindergartners at Mill Creek Elementary School. He teaches history at James Clemens.

That session emphasized “how relationships built by students can impact the lives of all involved,” Columbia Assistant Principal Brian Givens said.

Staggered schedules at both high schools helped in starting the program, Columbia Principal Jamie Hill said. During breakfast, teens can volunteer with all grades at Columbia.

The teenagers show an interest in the youngsters’ lives and do their best “to put a smile on a student’s face,” Givens said. Breakfast Buddies “is designed to help young children see that they’re important … and be more confident. So many students feel no one cares.”

As mentors, high school students “are paired with a buddy but are encouraged to also spread their influence to others in need,” Givens said. “I’ve witnessed many students who are somewhat timid or reserved open up to a high school mentor. They look forward to their visits each day.”

James Clemens students first visited with encouragement from technical theatre teacher Clint Merritt and assistant principal Allison Miller. In addition, Fellowship of Christian Athletes members have been very involved.

Bob Jones Assistant Principal Amy Thaxton “has organized a list of clubs and organizations that now comes to our school each day. Those groups include girls’ soccer, baseball, volleyball, Junior ROTC and Key Club,” Givens said.

The teenagers have been “amazed to see what some of our students are going through at their age,” Givens said. “They see how so many students crave and desire positive influences in their lives and want to be just that for them.”

Conversely, teenagers see “how the children look up to them when they see ‘Jets’ or ‘Patriots’ on their shirts. The program also builds the teenagers’ confidence,” Givens said.

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