Two ends of the spectrum

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

There’s a whole world of cultural and educational experience separating 6-year-old first graders and 16-year-old juniors in high school. By the time one has become the other, many vital life lessons will have been learned, and some of those will have even been learned in the classroom. Put those two sets of young people together, though, and some interesting things can happen.

That is part of the idea behind a recent partnership between students at Lakeland High School and students at Kilby Shores Elementary School. About 30 Lakeland students spent several hours on two days last week volunteering at Kilby Shores. They will visit the school twice a month, said organizer and Lakeland teacher India Meissel.

The program, which started last week, was designed as a literacy partnership between Kilby Shores and Lakeland’s Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society and journalism class, said Meissel. But organizers believe it has the potential to branch into other areas, including mentoring and “lunch buddy” relationships.

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In their first visit to the school, the older youth sat with their new young friends and helped them with their reading exercises. They also took some time to just answer questions from the youngsters. Predictably, 6-year-olds often want to know how late they’ll be able to stay up when they’re 16, so bedtime turned out to be an important topic of conversation.

Bedtime isn’t the kind of thing most folks imagine kids learning about in school, but the topic was a great icebreaker for teens who hope to become mentors to Kilby Shores’ first-graders. And even more than they need volunteer teaching assistants to come and read to them, the elementary school’s students need good mentors and role models.

The Lakeland project is a great opportunity for both the younger and older students, and it’s a good example of teachers, administrators and students thinking out of the box about how to improve the lives of youngsters in the school system. We hope it is so successful that it’s emulated throughout Suffolk.