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|5/24/2014 ||Email this article Print this article |
Lunch Buddy program leads to lasting connections
|An immediate bond was formed between 2014 Central Community High School graduate Kayla Smith and her lunch buddy of nearly six years in elementary school, Jean Bormann. Smith, who is 18 and plans to attend college in the fall in Dubuque to study to become a nurse, sent an invitation to her graduation party to Jean, who she met through Central’s Lunch Buddy program when she was in first grade. Smith credits Jean and the program for helping her get serious about school and becoming a successful student. Jean kept a card Smith made for her in elementary school, along with a few other mementos of their experience together. Photo by Kate Howes|
|Central welcomes more Lunch Buddy volunteers|
|Although the Lunch Buddy program at Central continues to grow and thrive, there always is a need for more volunteers who want to make a positive effect on the life of a child.|
Anyone who is interested in becoming a lunch buddy may contact Ekstrand Elementary School principal Jen Vance or guidance counselor Katie Burgmeier by calling 563-659-0750, or via email at or .
At Central Intermediate School, contact principal Jim Wichman or guidance counselor Sue Bormann by calling 563-659-4780 or via email at and .
By Kate Howes
When Kayla Smith was in first grade, she experienced life changes that can be upsetting at any age, let alone for a young child.
Her parents were divorcing and as a result, she had to leave her home in Davenport and move to DeWitt.
On top of everything happening in her personal life, Smith also struggled in school, specifically with reading.
However, because of Central Community School District's Lunch Buddy program, she became a better student and found an unlikely friend for whom she still has the utmost respect and admiration as she graduates.
The Lunch Buddy program was established at Central years ago under the direction of the district's first family resource director Jenny Kreiter.
The idea is to pair a student with an adult from the community who can provide a positive relationship and extra academic support and encouragement.
Determining which students could benefit from the program is a joint decision made by teachers, parents and school administrators, including guidance counselors and principals at the elementary and intermediate buildings.
When the program was established at Ekstrand Elementary, Kreiter says it was the ideal answer to a problem that had been troubling faculty members.
"We felt there was a gap in services," she relates. "Lunch Buddies supports academic, social and emotional growth, and that really fit what we wanted."
The program is more than just an adult and student eating lunch then working together to improve the student's academic performance.
Kreiter says not only is it a great opportunity for area adults to form intergenerational bonds, but also for the community to connect with the school in an entirely new way.
Over the years, married couples, area business representatives and teachers' spouses have volunteered to be positive influences on the lives of Central's younger students.
"These are people who truly care," Kreiter notes. "It's about so much more than people donating their time. They're adult mentors."
Sue Bormann, guidance counselor at Central Intermediate School, says sometimes all it takes is an adult who takes special notice of them to help students excel in school.
"The 1:1 attention is a wonderful boost for many kids," she relates. "It's a fantastic program that has had a great impact on both the students and the adults involved."
Motivating kids to do better in school is just one plus of the program. Sue says they've also had students make great gains in "soft skills," including eye contact, greeting someone with a handshake and making polite conversation.
These abilities also prove valuable in building their confidence now and in the future.
An unexpected friendship,
Smith never expected to gain so much from one experience when she was appointed a lunch buddy in first grade.
In fact, she admits, Smith kind of dreaded the thought of having to do homework after lunch instead of going outside for recess.
Together with Jean Bormann, a Charlotte resident and advertising director at The Observer newspaper, Smith worked on spelling and read books aloud.
Over time, she began looking to her lunch buddy as a parent and eventually, a friend. Smith talked to her about things that were upsetting her outside of school.
"I felt she trusted me to be there, and I didn't want to let her down," Jean relates. Now, the program is available for students through sixth grade; however, at the time, it only went through fifth grade. Smith was upset at the thought of not being able to see her lunch buddy on a weekly basis.
So, on her own time, Jean would spend time with Smith during her free periods or study halls at school so the two could spend time together.
The summer after Smith's seventh-grade year, she wrote Jean letters and even sent her a sand dollar charm that Jean still carries with her.
Smith says without the Lunch Buddies program and the extra help, she probably would've continued to struggle in school and wouldn't be looking forward to attending college in Dubuque this fall where she will study to become a nurse.
"Sometimes children just need someone to believe in them and say, 'You can do it,'" Jean shares.