Lakota's Youngest, Oldest Students Build Bonds

Lakota's Youngest and Oldest Students Build Special Bonds
Posted on 12/20/2018
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Photos of Big Paws, Little Paws students working togetherLiberty ECS second-grader Isaiah Givens greets Assistant Principal Caryn Gross each day with a hug and a countdown that goes something like this: “Seven more days until Big PAWS! I wish we had it every single day!”

Even though the Big PAWS/Little PAWS mentoring program just launched in October, students in the program just can’t say enough about it. Hunter Miller, another second-grader, enjoys the program as much as Isaiah does. “I like it so much, I never want to leave. I really like Jada. She’s really nice! We play a bunch of games and color. Sometimes we talk.” 

Big PAWS/Little PAWS matches students from Liberty Early Childhood School with Lakota East High School students (from the LINKS Leaders and People of All Cultures organizations) in a 1:1 mentoring relationship. The Big PAWS and Little PAWS meet two times per month (every other Wednesday) at Liberty ECS in a relaxed setting to enjoy easy conversation, laughter, and activities such as board games, craft projects, sketching/drawing, and reading/writing together. It’s a year-long program, allowing students to build positive relationships through mentoring.

“Big PAWS/Little PAWS started as a vision for meeting some of the social and emotional needs of our K-2 students,” said Gross. “As an assistant principal, I am working with students each day to develop skills across social, emotional, behavioral, and academic areas. Some of our littlest learners have the greatest needs in these areas.”

She heard about a similar mentoring program at Wyandot ECS, and coordinated with their counselor so Lakota East students travel to Liberty ECS and Wyandot ECS on the same day and time.

Big PAWS are Lakota East juniors and seniors carefully selected through an application process;  they also attended an orientation prior to starting the program. This year there are 10 Bigs and 10 Littles participating; the goal was to start small and gradually build the program with a solid structure and the time needed to build trusting relationships.

The Bigs enjoy the program as much as the Littles. “I love spending time with Tegan,” said Lakota East’s Maddie Owens. “It is always so fun playing games with him and it’s nice to take a break in the day to spend one-on-one time with a kid.” And fellow Big PAW Emma French likes the flexibility of the program. “I like how we have the option to work on school work with them and that it isn’t mandatory. That way we get to know our Little PAWS on a more personal level rather than them looking at us like another teacher.”

Gross looks forward to growing the program next year. “Our Big PAWS are outstanding young adults dedicated to impacting the life of a young Lakota child. If I had to think of one word to describe Big PAWS/Little PAWS, it would be heart-warming. The first time the Bigs and Littles met for a mentoring session, it brought tears to my eyes. The interaction between the Bigs and the Littles is just simply sweet.”