Londonderry's Big Buddies foster friendships
A short time later, the school's Big Buddies program was born. Twenty students participated in the program that first year, heading over to one of the district's elementary schools once a week where they worked one-on-one with kids facing various challenges in their lives.
"A few of our kids have had Big Buddies themselves when they were younger," she said. "But most of them keep participating simply because they enjoy it."
Once they're accepted into the program, the Buddies are sent to the district's elementary and middle schools every day, spending their study periods or afterschool hours at the younger students' respective schools.
Some of the younger students have special needs, while others are simply facing challenging times at school or at home. They may need a bit of extra help with their homework, or simply just someone to talk to, play a game with or spend some quiet time together working on a craft.
"We play a lot of Uno together," Collins said with a laugh. "We have an ongoing score going. And I've seen him grow a lot during that time."
"I just love walking into the room and seeing that little face light up," she said.
"The younger kids get help with their social skills and their self-esteem," Carrasquillo said. "And the older kids get some real-life experience and the chance to really make a difference."
Collins said she hopes to one day become a special education teacher. Downing and Slide also wish to teach children someday.
"I just like being able to be a friend to this little girl," McQueeney said.