College has many neat aspects, one of which is that you get to choose your schedule. A lot of students choose not to have Friday classes. I willingly fell into the trap of craving a three-day weekend, but I also decided to go to school on Fridays, just in a different capacity than “lecture hall.”
Each Friday I (along with other volunteers in the Lunch Buddies RSO) travel to a local elementary school to eat lunch with our Lunch Buddy. We promote healthy eating and play with them at recess, bringing inclusion and intentional conversation to the 3rd and 4th grade.
This year I was paired with a 4th-grade sunshine superstar named Savanna Peacock.
Lunch Buddies (unfortunately, but understandingly) does not provide mentors with medical information on their buddies (liability reasons), but through conversation and spending time with Savanna, I learned that she has autism and asthma. I would have never guessed this, though, because she is enthusiastic, attentive, and has the drive to learn more.
Working with my friend Savanna been very rewarding week in and week out. She enjoys puzzles of all sorts (scavenger hunts, word searches, etc.). I also quickly learned that she enjoys crafts that allow us to spend individual time together. I will present our various craft for the day as a surprise for her, and she enjoys not knowing as the element of surprise keeps her engaged.
During the beginning part of the school year, the mentors set goals for them and their buddy for the remainder of the year. My goals that I set while working with Savanna were the following three:
1. Continue to promote healthy eating and see an improvement in her understanding of it.
2. Have intentional conversations beyond the typically expected topics. Ask about family, future, thoughts/feelings, etc.
3. Laugh and have fun – remember that she is in 4th grade & shamelessly let your inner child flourish and shine.
Quick Story Time: One day our craft was to make friendship bracelets. Secretly I had gotten the letters SP, standing for her initials, so that I could wear always to remind me of our friendship and to pray for her continuously. As I came back with my letters tucked in my hand she boldly asked me how to spell my name. Caught off guard I told her, and then she proceeded to tell me how to spell hers. I quickly realized that she wanted us to make our own bracelets that had each others names written on them, to remind each other of our friendship and our fun times together. // As a young lad, I had seen my friends do this among their friends, longing for the same inclusion while I was quietly tucked in the corner. Unbeknownst to her, Savanna had filled my heart full of our friendship after all those years.
Participation in this organization has been very rewarding, and I enjoy spending my Fridays going to (elementary) school and hanging out with my friend Savanna.
Additionally, I was awarded the Mentor of the Month Award for Lunch Buddies Program!
Being able to spend time with the little ones, positively impacting the life of my buddy and others within the schooling system, is a constant joy and something that I look forward to each week.
Lunch Buddies articles from Morning Sun News (2015) and Central Michigan LIFE (2014), CMU News (2015)
CMU VOLUNTEERS: if you’re interested in becoming a part of Lunch Buddies (having fun with 3rd and 4th graders in the Mount Pleasant area) applications are open until May 2nd. Read more and apply here!