Motivated by her passion to pursue a career in education and human resources after graduating this spring, Brooke Hayes ’17 worked with Arlene Eddington, a teacher at Geneva’s North Street Elementary School to create the Lunch Buddies Program.
“We worked closely over the past two years to create this Lunch Buddy Program designed to provide elementary school students with HWS athletes serving as role models,” says Hayes, a double major in history and music. “The HWS athletes are provided a list of students who need extra guidance in the lunchroom during the time which they volunteer. The goal while the HWS athletes are in the lunchroom is to get to know as many students as they can.”
A four-year member of the William Smith squash team, Hayes started the Lunch Buddies program last year and through her work, HWS student-athletes started getting involved this year. Now 48 student-athletes representing 14 Heron and Statesmen teams have volunteered.
“Volunteering in the Lunch Buddies Program was definitely not a hard decision to make,” says William Smith basketball guard Melanie Patterson ’17. “I can remember when I was that age and was looking up to so many athletes that were playing sports in college and wanting to be just like them. Being able to give back to the community in a way that I know I benefited from is incredibly rewarding. Helping the students with cafeteria manners, answering questions that they have about college or sports, or even just having conversations with them about what they are interested in I think helps the children set goals for their future.”
One of the goals for the program is to not have any North Street School students sitting alone in the lunchroom. Having the HWS student-athletes there extending their friendship positively impacts the environment for the elementary school students. Recently, Hayes was able to bring HWS acapella group Perfect Third into the lunchroom to entertain the students. Hayes hopes to continue to expand the program in the coming spring semester.
“Initially the goal was for us to provide the kids at North Street School with a common face weekly in order to foster healthy relationships and mentor them, but it has proven to be a mutually beneficial program where their innocence and genuine happiness is something that has become a highlight to our weeks,” shares Hobart lacrosse Grant Soucy ’17. “I have been able to develop great relationships with these kids and I am hopeful that I have had as much of an impact on them as they have on me. It is a great program and I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to connect with the local kids of Geneva.”