What do you call someone you mentor? Mentee? Protégé? Padawan? While hotly debated among word purists, I don’t know that it actually matters. It’s the relationship that matters and the magic that happens in learning from and with another person.
I have a Little Brother who is about half a foot taller than I am. And get this...he’s only 15. I have this Little Brother because I’ve had the privilege of being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa since October of 2018. Being a mentor to a young person is a huge responsibility, and it’s been a great experience getting to know him, joining him as he walks through life, and attempting to impart some kind of wisdom or knowledge when I can. Honestly, most of the time I feel like I’m learning from him as much as he’s learning from me.
In a mentoring relationship, there are certainly pivotal moments and conversations that can change a person. These moments are sometimes dramatic or moving or difficult, and you don’t forget these moments. But there is something very special and hard to measure about the ongoing, regular interactions that can shape a person. The more time I spend with my Little, the more I remember what it’s like to be young, to have dreams, to not put limits on myself, to be optimistic, and to take risks. And I hope that he is picking up some positive traits from me along the way as well.
This is just one of the reasons why I love Canterbury’s Buddy Program. This program is very similar to the national Big Brother Big Sister program. In the Upper School, we match our grade 5 students with high school seniors, and in the Lower School, we match our PK4 students with grade 4 students. Our buddy events happen monthly throughout the year and are something that, I can honestly say, the students really look forward to. The program helps the younger students feel less intimidated by having a “cool, older student” as their friend and helps the older students exercise leadership, empathy, and care.
At Canterbury, there are also many pivotal moments between buddies. Special events and conversations happen that are not easily forgotten by our students. But it’s the daily interactions that I really love. Watching as a 5th-grader gives a high-five to their senior buddy in the hall or seeing a 4th-grade student hold a PK4 student’s hand at Flag is...magical. Those small moments are the glue that holds those relationships together and provides the foundations for those pivotal moments.
Most of the important lessons we learn in life are not learned in a vacuum; they are learned in relationships and in the interactions between people. The Buddy Program gives students the opportunity to guide those younger than them and to be reminded that sometimes our youngest students can teach those who are older a lot about life.
Read some comments from current little and big buddies on the Knowlton Campus.
Little buddies wrote:
He is so cool and nice and plays sports like me! - Gianni
Trinity is awesome because she is funny and kind. Lachondeia is awesome because she is creative and super nice. - Caj
She is so kind and makes me happy when I see her. - Aubrey
Haley and Ty are awesome because every time they see me they give me a hug and both are supportive and kind. I like the buddy program because it helped me warm up to the Upper Campus. - Calli
He always encourages me. - Vihaan
I like having a friend to look up to. - Kiersten
My buddy went to my golf match! - Brady
They always give me Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos! It is fun to have people not in your grade as friends. - Saelee
Big buddies wrote:
I love seeing our grade be softer and kinder with the younger kids.
The buddy program reminds me to be a kid again and just have fun.
I love the buddy program because it unites the two extremes of school, entertains students and serves as a guide for preparation for 5th graders to become successful and open and friendly.
The buddy program makes me a better person because someone looks up to me.
I get to be like a big brother to him.
My little buddy is smarter than me, but I feel like the man with my buddy.
I love the buddy program because we get to bond with the younger kids and make their move to the Upper Campus easier.
The buddy program makes me feel good for being a mentor for younger people in the school.