Central students reach out to youngsters

Club members spend time eating lunch, reading books with W.W. Robinson students

By Ryan Cornell

WOODSTOCK — Each morning at 11:20 a.m., a group of Central High School students walk out the door, go across the parking lot and into the W.W. Robinson Elementary cafeteria.

These students, part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club’s Lunch Buddies program, started eating lunch with the younger kids last month.

Club adviser Raelyn Hamilton said the high schoolers are partnered with elementary school students who might need some extra encouragement.

“Our students are assigned a student to get to know that student and get comfortable so they can talk about what’s been happening,” she said. “They create a friendship, a relationship.”

Chapter President Vanessa Tracy said they mostly meet with first and second graders who share their lunch period. She said they talk about what they’ve been learning in class, the quality of the school lunches and ask her questions about what high school is like.

She said one of the club members in the program was told by a younger student, “I want to be just like you when I grow up.”

“Through Lunch Buddies, I learned that you can really help people. Even if it’s only eating lunch with someone, you can be a friend to anyone,” Tracy said.

Kendra Coffey, a senior in the club, said the students at W.W. Robinson always look forward to their visits and often ask her to stay longer.

“Having a high school student come eat lunch with you, how cool does that make you?” she asked.

Another group of students in the club has started bringing books over and reading to students at the elementary school.

The maiden voyage of the club’s First Books program was on Friday. Four students in the program took a wagon and cart filled with more than 100 books to two kindergarten and two first grade classes.

Chapter Vice President Kyla Strother helped create the program.

“Because W.W. Robinson is a Title I school, we figured if 70 percent don’t pay for lunch, they probably don’t have books at home,” she said.

Hamilton cited a study by the Jenkins Group, which found that 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

“Kyla’s goal was to reach out and get them books for home because literacy is important at such a young age,” she said.

Strother said the books were ordered through First Books, an organization that provides books for low-income families, at “very little cost” through a $1,000 grant awarded to the chapter last year along with its STOP the Violence award.

Students in grades nine through 12 enrolled in a family consumer science class are eligible to join the club, which has about 70 members. The two new programs are open to anyone in club.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com