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‘Making a new friend’

Krystle Wagner • Mar 29, 2017 at 12:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — Laughter and talking from animated children filled a classroom at Holmes Elementary School on Tuesday as high school students played games and colored alongside them during the new Lunch Buddies program.

Once a week for an hour, 22 students meet at the elementary school for lunch, games and building friendships.

“We hope students make a strong connection with each other, can interact with each other, can learn from each other, and can just have some time working one-on-one with someone who cares about them,” explained Holmes Principal Sandra Smits. “They are making a new friend. A friend that they can learn from and perhaps teach something to, as well.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore initially approached the Spring Lake school district to see if there was an interest in the program, Smits said. Holmes teachers made recommendations and parents were asked permission for their children to participate in the program. Students from Spring Lake High School volunteered and were interviewed to participate.

The program kicked off March 21 and will continue through the end of the school year.

Ava Hatton, an 11th-grader at SLHS, says she volunteers for the program because it’s an opportunity unlike anything else in the area.

Another 11th-grader, Madi Miller, colored with her kindergarten friend, Ava McClain. Miller said it’s fun having the chance to talk to the younger kids and gain a new perspective. She said the younger children are focused on having fun with their friends, whereas the high school students are more focused on academics and preparing for college.

“I love being able to connect,” Miller added.

McClain, 5, said she likes having fun with her older friend.

Smits said it’s exciting to see the connections between the two groups of students. The first time the Holmes students met their high school partners, she said the excitement could be seen on their faces.

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