A glimpse into the SSFS senior buddy experience.

Noah Brown, SSFS Life Editor

As a senior at Sandy Spring now, there are a lot of new hurdles that affect daily life. Examples are senioritis, maintaining grades, the dreaded college process, and leaving a legacy. But here at SSFS, we have a unique aspect to senior year that lightens the mood and makes for a more joyful and positively memorable year. This is the coordination between the senior class and lowest grades, commonly referred to as “senior buddies”. Many seniors go into the first couple of weeks of school highly anticipating the greeting of their senior buddies, whether they will share one with another senior, or if it is their own. Some go into the year dreading it because they do not like kids, but many students dive into the experience full of enthusiasm.

It all starts with the first visit. You and your fellow seniors receive your buddy’s name and their grade, along with your name on a sticker. Time slows down when we get closer and closer to the lower school main building. Once we are there, we are pointed in the direction of the classrooms where the kindergarteners and 1st graders are. For me, I share a buddy with a fellow senior. We walk into the classroom, just to feel like giants. The kids are a third the height of most of us. I see my buddy, and it really hits me how similar I looked to him back when I was his same age. After some introductions, we become acquainted and learn simple things about each other. We like to run around the playground and in the sand pit.

I spoke with two students, Donnie Harris and Matthew Mangum, who are also seniors this school year. I asked them some general questions to hear their responses. For some seniors, their buddies are just like they are or were at that age. For some seniors, they appear as polar opposites in personalities.

With Donnie, his buddy’s name is Brandon, and he is in the kindergarten class. Although Brandon doesn’t necessarily remind Donnie of himself, he reminds Donnie of his sister. Donnie marvels, “I don’t ever remember little kids being so grown…He’s got it all mapped out; he knows what he wants to be. He can have a conversation and it has actual substance.” Donnie doesn’t know if his buddy looks up to him, but he knows that Brandon looks forward to seeing him. He feels appreciated by his buddy’s excitement and anticipation. After asking Donnie about real world values and lessons that he has learned through the buddy experience, he stated, “Behaving appropriately in front of little kids. As high school students, we just say whatever we want and let things slip… [Yet] when you’re with somebody else’s child, who’s growing up, you have to show more respect. Just like you would respect someone older than you, you have to respect someone younger than you, because they’re at a different developmental stage…The things they pick up on may not be things that would necessarily be best for them in the long run.”

With Matthew, his buddy likes Iron Man and Spider-Man a lot. Matthew explains, “He’s become too mature for Paw Patrol,” so Matthew and his buddy talk a lot about superheroes. They also talk more about pop culture, such as music and movies. Matthew comments, “Seeing how much different they act now vs. when we were in first grade, my friends and I were a lot less mature.” When considering the values of the buddy program, Matthew believes (and I agree 100%) that, “It makes you value light hearted conversation and taking on less serious topics…There’s definitely a time to not be focusing on political talks and all these big issues and having fun.”

The buddy relationship provides a fresh perspective to the aging mind of a senior, whether it’s during full school assemblies, like community day, the start of school assemblies, or on the playground running after them at full speed. We learn about the true diversity in friendship, delighting in the experience of a younger friend waving enthusiastically to you when passing each other on the campus. We’ve learned something about going back and meeting our younger selves, if it were possible. We also learn the values of knowing what to say and what not to say; we realize that something as simple as a bad word or a negative concept could have a massive impact on this young mind. It is a way of truly appreciating how you influence others with your own developing character. For the youngsters, it is the best time since they get to hang out with the cool kids – giants, who they will be like in the future. It is an experience for both parties that makes us look forward to the next time we go to the playground with our buddy, for us to reconnect and reflect on who we were, and for our buddy to connect with who they aspire to be.


image URL: