LONDONDERRY — Londonderry High School junior Katie Collins has been playing the card game Uno every week for a long time and she hopes to continue.
Katie is one of about 140 students currently participating in the school’s Big Buddy program, where older students are teamed up with students at the town’s elementary schools to spend time together reading, playing games and just having fun.
“This is my third year with my buddy,” Katie said.
Her young charge is a student at Matthew Thornton Elementary School. He insists he and Katie play Uno every time she visits.
“We’ve played Uno for three years,” she said. “I’ve played nothing else.”
The program began about 14 years ago when one student wanted to start a club to connect older students with younger ones.
Some students who were once part of the program as elementary students are now taking on buddy roles as high school students.
The club grows every year.
For Katie and the other Buddy members, it’s a chance to give special time to younger students who may need a boost of friendship and extra help for a short time during the day.
High school students travel to the schools every week to visit their little “buddies.”
“I like when I walk in the room and my buddy screams my name,” LHS junior Kayla Slide said.
Kayla said she not only spends time with her little buddy, but the little girl always asks her older friend about her day.
Older students also witness changes in the little ones, Ryan Muse said, as they get comfortable with their Big Buddy.
“I like seeing how much it changes them and how much it means to them,” he said.
Teachers at the elementary level make the connections as to what student might be good in the Big Buddy program. At the high school, teachers and student advisory board members also go over applications for potential club members.
The school also provides shirts and will host a year-end party for all club participants.
“They are like celebrities to the little ones,” LHS administrative assistant Elsie Carrasquillo said.
LHS junior Emily Downing said she loves being a big buddy to younger students.
“It just makes their day,” she said.