Eighth Graders Mentor Students at Daughtrey Elementary
ODA eighth graders have begun a year-long program with kindergarten buddies at Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary School in Bradenton. The program, now in its second year, teaches our students empathy, communication, and understanding as they mentor children at the Title 1 school.
The Middle Schoolers first connected with their new friends at Daughtrey by writing personal letters of introduction which the kindergarteners received with a great deal of excitement. This week, the ODA students traveled to the elementary school to meet with their buddies. Each ODA student brought books with them, many of which were chosen because they were favorites that the eighth graders remembered from their younger days. Faculty members at Daughtrey had indicated that they didn’t yet have a library for the kindergarten students, so ODA Middle School faculty members took action to provide this crucial accessibility to books. In addition to the books each ODA student brought for their buddies, the faculty also purchased additional books to help build up the kindergartener’s library.
Once they arrived and were introduced to each other, the students moved into small groups and settled down to read. The kindergarteners visibly responded to having their new friends share special stories with them, and were especially excited when they learned that these books would also be gifts. The Middle Schoolers spent more than an hour reading to their buddies. Felipe Baffico '23 noticed that two of the children did not yet understand English, and offered to translate their book into Spanish to ensure that they would be able to participate. After they finished reading, many of the students took time to talk and get to know their buddies better by asking questions. The kindergarteners enjoyed sharing what they like to do and some of their favorite things. Despite the difference in age, the students were able to find common ground and interacted comfortably. Through a simple act of sharing books and getting to know these young children, our students are learning essential communication and leadership skills.
During the second quarter of this year, ODA students will travel back to Daughtrey to visit with their buddies again. This spring, the kindergarteners and their teachers will come to the Uihlein Campus in Lakewood Ranch to read and participate in activities with their eighth grade friends. The Middle Schoolers have remarked that they are looking forward to meeting with their buddies again in this important community partnership.