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Kindergarteners, seniors pair up during John Cooper’s adoption day

October 9, 2018

It wasn’t the first day of school, but it sure felt like it inside The John Cooper School’s cafeteria the morning of Friday, Oct. 5.

The excitement was palpable as members of the senior and kindergarten classes filed in from opposite doors. They were ready to meet their counterparts and kick off this year’s Kindergarten-Senior Adoption Project.

On the day they meet, the students are paired up in assigned groups of two or three people. They introduce themselves and get to know each other while eating ice cream sandwiches. Then, the seniors give their kindergarteners a tour of upper school — getting to see the seniors’ lockers seemed like a big highlight for the kindergarteners.

Senior Tre Caraway said he was initially nervous for the day, but added that it went pretty well.

While his kindergartener, Bryce Tyree, bumbled around the library, infatuated with all the new things to see, Caraway said that this was a full circle experience for him. He remembers being paired with a senior when he was a kindergartener more than a decade earlier.

“My senior had a big impact on me, so I’m trying to do the same,” Caraway said. “(The kindergarteners’) brains are malleable, and you’re going to impact them a lot. It’s important to have a positive impact on them.”

Part of the aim of the project was to help foster those long-lasting, positive relationships. The project started 25 years ago with the Class of 1994, which was the first class to graduate from the school.

Laura Schroeder, the school’s college counseling director, said this treasured tradition serves a dual purpose.

“It’s encouraging and motivating to a kindergartener, and for a senior it’s a confidence builder to see that this is leadership in action,” Schroeder said.

The pairs participate in activities that blend fun and learning each month throughout the school year. They have holiday parties, read and write books and even go on field trips.

John Cooper alumna and now-parent Kerry Allen participated in the project when she was a senior and said she remembers the field trips well, markedly because of how exhausted she was from chasing her kindergartener around.

“Needless to say, most of the seniors were asleep (on the bus) on the return trip to campus!” Allen said.

Allen has kept in contact with her kindergartener through the years. To keep the tradition going, Allen got to watch her daughter, who is now a student at John Cooper, be partnered with a senior last year.

“(My daughter) and her senior clicked from day one. The teachers do a great job of thoughtfully creating the pairs,” Allen said.

This year, senior Kate Fisher said she’s looking forward to spending time with her kindergartener and keeping in contact with her even after she graduates.

She participated in the program when she was a kindergartener. The project seems to stick with the students through their time at the school and beyond.

“I’m excited to make (my kindergartener) feel special, by giving her notes or tiny gifts and letting her know that there’s someone there for her. I’m excited for the whole thing, to be a senior and have my turn,” Fisher said.

Schroeder said that this is exactly how the program should work: to create a steady stream of community by connecting the students.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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