The Buddy Program: What is it all about?

Friends take photos of each other and post it on Instagram; they sit together at lunch; and they call each other to complain about their problems. For one group of students, friendship comes less easily. The Buddy Program is a program that gives students a chance to mentor a special needs student.

“Teachers select kids that are qualified for the buddy program and they get assigned to a buddy. We get to know them and we go on different field trips throughout the year,” senior and big buddy Joe Schiller said.

The mentor students are selected by coaches, teachers, and advisors because the teacher believes them to have good leadership and social skills. This past year, 50 students were recommended, and 19 people were chosen to be mentors.

The mentors are paired with a buddy according to their shared interests.  Mentors go on field trips with their buddies to places such as corn mazes or a Key’s game.

“I really think it has an impact on them because they have someone to look to in the hallways and say ‘Hi’ and just talk to them. I see my buddy once a day,” Schiller says.

The program started six years ago, about the same time teachers and students left the old Linganore building.  “We had some parents of special needs kids that came to us and shared with us some experiences their kids had in another informal mentoring program.  They approached our school improvement team wanted us to see if there was some way we could formalize a program,” said Mr. Brown, a co-organizer of the Buddy Program.

There are many national programs that give tips on how to structure the program, but LHS took a different approach. “We tried to make something that was unique to Linganore,” he said.

“The hope is that when they are out around school that there’s interaction so they feel like they made that connection with the other student. Most of the time the mentor has friends that are accepting of their buddy so that helps” Mrs. Henry, co-organizer and special education teacher said.

“You know when you’re in high school you kind of think everyone has the same experiences as you. It’s good for everyone to see that all kinds of kids have all kinds of different experiences as they go through high school,” Brown said.