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15 years of students helping students in Vanderhoof

McLeod Cares program has been running for 15 years at elementary school
McLeod Cares leaders gather for a treat supplied by Subway in thanks for their service. (Photo contributed)

McLeod Elementary is committed to making the transition to school as easy as possible for its newest students each year.

“Our grade sixes become like big buddies for our new kindergarten students, and our new students who have moved to our school,” said Principal Libby Hart, explaining how the student leaders go through a training program that includes a phone call to the parents of the child they have been assigned to introduce themselves.

Student leaders in the McLeod Cares program welcome the new kids on their first day, but the welcoming doesn’t stop there.

“During the first week of school, they’re out on the playground, helping and answering questions and looking after the little kids. It’s kind of like a very targeted big buddy program,” said Hart.

Hart said many of the students form lasting relationships that continue into high school.

“When they go to the high school and they’re in grade seven, they will have a big buddy from grade 12,” said Hart.

Potential leaders have to apply to become part of the program, including a nomination from an adult. Then the work begins with a welcome to Kindergarten barbecue.

“Our new leaders who will be taking over in September help run the whole barbecue. So they have to organize stations and events for the kids to do at the barbecue. They do things like face painting and bubbles and scavenger hunts,” said Hart. “It’s a really good learning experience. And hopefully, we’re helping them to become more empathetic, to become good leaders and to be caring people and citizens that help out.”

Hart said the program has been running for 15 years, and that it exemplifies important aspects of education.

“It is really neat to watch the kids how it keeps on, how they keep giving back,” said Hart. “They get to be on one end of it and then they get to give back when they get older.”