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Hangin’ with the buddies

John Colson
Basalt High School junior Trevor Brown plays a board game with Basalt second-grader Shaun Hamilton-Gallow. Brown and Hamilton-Gallow are buddies in the Basalt schools' Peer to Peer program. (John Colson/The Aspen Times)
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For years The Buddy Program has been matching adults with teens and younger children in an effort to provide the kind of mentoring friendship that can change a youngster’s life.

But recently the organization has expanded its scope into the area’s schools, pairing older students with their younger counterparts in what is known as the Peer To Peer School-Based Mentoring program.

The Buddy Program already had a School-Based Mentoring program in which parents would come to a local school to read to their little buddies or share in some other activity with them.

Like the adult program, Peer To Peer takes place exclusively in the schools at specific times that can be monitored by Buddy Program personnel or the school’s employees. The buddies are prohibited from getting together after school or on weekends, which, Buddy Program officials say, is necessary for the integrity of the program.

Recently, the organization has extended the Peer To Peer program to students at Basalt schools. Organizers say there are about 25 pairs in Aspen and 28 in Basalt.

Basalt High School’s Seann Goodwin, a social studies teacher who also serves as the leadership instructor at the school, said he sees the program as “a way for kids to get to know how other kids work.”

Plus, Goodwin said, “this is part of class, so they are getting credit for it.”

He said they are required to write a journal on their Peer To Peer experiences, answering weekly questions such as, “What are you learning about yourself in The Buddy Program?”

He said some students from other service-oriented classes and clubs, such as the Future Business Leaders of America, have gotten involved in the Peer To Peer program, as well.

The Aspen Times last week visited with two recently matched pairs of students to find out what kind of things they do together and how they like the program.

At the Basalt schools, the older students in the program are from all grades at Basalt High, while the younger ones are from either second or third grade.

Trevor Brown, a junior, met up with his younger buddy, second-grader Shaun Hamilton-Gallow, in the library at Basalt Elementary School for the third time one day last week.

They soon got down to the serious business of the day ” playing a round of The Game of Life board game.

Brown said this is his first experience with The Buddy Program, although he worked with the Camp Chip-A-Tooth preschool program once and learned that he liked working with younger kids.

Hamilton-Gallow said this is his first Buddy Program experience, too, as he concentrated on placing set pieces on the game board.

“I like to be with little kids and have fun with them and help them,” said Brown, noting that while this is a requirement of his leadership class, “I might have done it otherwise, [and] I’d like to continue doing it.”

“Good,” chimed in Hamilton-Gallow, when asked how he felt about the program.

When Brown revealed that Hamilton-Gallow has “a really good arm” for throwing footballs, the second-grader beamed proudly and added, “I throw hard. I’m in baseball. I played it in Paonia, and then I played it in Aspen. I play with high-schoolers. I’m the youngest.”

Brown said the pair usually goes outside during their sessions to play some football or a game of tag.

Hamilton-Gallow said his parents appreciate the program, although they have not yet met Brown.

Organizer Carmen Pittenger, of the Basalt Buddy Program office, said there will be a pizza party later this school year, when everyone can meet each other.

At Aspen Elementary School, second-grader Luci Sherriff said her buddy, sophomore Kaitlyn Hooper, sometimes joins her for lunch, “and sometimes she takes me in for recess” so the two can play games like hangman on the class blackboard “when it’s not nice [outside].”

“I like spending time with kids, helping kids in general,” Hooper said. “I feel like I’m helping Luci, and it’s giving me a good experience, as well.”

She said she first heard about the program during her heroes class and that it is a voluntary arrangement that does not involve credit.

Already planning to become a pediatric doctor or nurse, Hooper said she has always felt that as an adult she will end with a job that has “definitely something to do with kids.”

Asked what she likes about the Peer To Peer program, Sherriff thought for a second and said, “I don’t know. Spending time with my buddy. But I don’t like it when she breaks her leg,” pointing to a walking brace wrapped around Hooper’s leg.

Hooper noted that the program offers participants a handbook with suggestions about what to do during their time together and explains the various restrictions such as a prohibition against leaving the school campus.

“I think it would be nice to take her to a movie or something like that,” Hooper said wistfully but then adding that the school-based stuff is fun, too. For instance, she said, she recently attended Sherriff’s class play and gave Sherriff a birthday party.

The two have been meeting since last November, once a week, and they plan to remain buddies until Hooper leaves to go to college.

“Yes, yes, yes, always,” Sherriff agreed gleefully.

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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