Lunch Bud­dies Bond Over Cafe­te­ria Food

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kutter

LIN­COLN — Den­nis Miles Jr., with EMS Inc. in Dutch Mills, has spent his lunch hour ev­ery other week for the past four months eat­ing with a young buddy at Lin­coln Ele­men­tary School.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Miles and his new friend, Vance Shook, 8, is just what school ad­min­is­tra­tors had hoped a new men­tor­ing pro­gram would ac­com­plish at the ele­men­tary school and mid­dle school.

“They have so much in com­mon and they just clicked,” said Jill Jack­son, ele­men­tary school principal. “It’s been won­der­ful to watch.”

Miles is one of 30 adults who vol­un­teered twice a month dur­ing the sec­ond se­mes­ter to eat lunch with a stu­dent.

“I think it’s pretty awe­some,” Miles said about the Lunch Buddy pro­gram. “It’s re­ally good for stu­dents who maybe don’t get as much at­ten­tion at home.”

Miles has seen a change in Vance since the two started eat­ing lunch to­gether in Jan­uary.

At first Vance was shy and stand­off­ish.

Now, as soon as Vance sees Miles at school, the young boy comes up to give a hug.

“We’ve bonded in a very short pe­riod of time,” Miles said.

Vance has nice things to say about his buddy as well.

“He’s real nice and he’s kind to oth­ers and to me,” Vance said.

The two talk about dif­fer­ent sub­jects. Vance likes su­per heroes. Spi­der­man is his fa­vorite. He also likes to read.

But Miles also has talked to Vance about strate­gies on how to deal with his be­hav­ior and how to calm down in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions.

Vance said one thing he has learned he can do when he gets an­gry is to sit on his bot­tom on his hands.

Mary Ann Spears, su­per­in­ten­dent of Lin­coln Con­sol­i­dated School District, be­gan talk­ing about a men­tor­ing pro­gram for chil­dren af­ter at­tend­ing a Bright Fu­tures con­fer­ence last spring. She was es­pe­cially im­pressed with a pro­gram in Mex­ico, Mo., where men­tors were meet­ing with 200 stu­dents once a week dur­ing their lunch pe­riod.

Spears came back to Lin­coln and im­me­di­ately be­gan push­ing for Lin­coln to have its own men­tor­ing pro­gram.

Jack­son has taken over the Lunch Buddy pro­gram for Lin­coln and she hopes to dou­ble the num­ber of stu­dents and adults in­volved in it next year.

“This is some­thing for the kids and they look forward to it,” Jack­son said. “It’s a goal for them to work to­ward and it is some­one they can have a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with. This is to help build up their self-es­teem.”

Jack­son said the school looked at sev­eral fac­tors when de­cid­ing what stu­dents to try to sign up for the pro­gram.

“When mak­ing the de­ci­sion on what stu­dents would ben­e­fit from this pro­gram, we used teacher and coun­selor rec­om­men­da­tion. I also work with sev­eral par­ents and asked their per­mis­sion in pro­vid­ing their child with a lunch buddy, to of­fer them some ex­tra sup­port through­out the school day. Typ­i­cally it was a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, but we knew it would a suc­cess­ful bene­fac­tor of their day,” Jack­son said.

The lunch buddy sys­tem brings an­other adult into the stu­dents’ lives, in ad­di­tion to their par­ents or teach­ers, she added.

Any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing as a lunch buddy can email Jack­son at jjack­son@lin­coln.k12.ar.us.

LYNN KUTTER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Vance Shook, 8, and Den­nis Miles Jr., have been lunch bud­dies at Lin­coln Ele­men­tary School this se­mes­ter. Miles came to the school ev­ery other week to visit with Vance dur­ing his lunchtime.

Malachi Baker, who is in kinder­garten at Lin­coln Ele­men­tary, clowns around with his lunch buddy and men­tor, Deon Birkes, assistant principal for Lin­coln High School and the district’s ath­letic di­rec­tor.

PHO­TOS BY LYNN KUTTER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Jeremy Jack­son served as the lunch buddy for Ma­son Set­ting, a kinder­garten stu­dent at Lin­coln Ele­men­tary School.

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