At Camas High School many have seen toddlers playing in a play structure outside, others might see them down the 200
The children attend school five times a week, spending 2 ½ hours at the school. In this time they learn how to read and write in one classroom and arts and math in the other. “Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are days where we learn about the kids’ development and the social and intellectual and emotional areas,” Jesse Sullivan, a senior here at CHS, explains the high schooler’s part of this class. “Tuesdays and Fridays we actually get to interact with the kids and get experience on how to deal with issues.”
Now it might be a parent’s concern with the thought of high schoolers working with their toddlers, but it seems to be working out quite well. “The preschoolers generally enjoy what we call the high school friends,” Mrs. Christen Ham, the head preschool teacher, elaborates on the situation. “They really look up to them, it’s their favorite part of their week, and once the parents are in the program they always comment on how much their kids talk about their high school friends and how they really enjoy them.”
The students that attend this class are as enthusiastic as the children are to see be there with them. “I really like kids, part of the reason why I took the class because I heard you get to play around with them. I’m a huge fan of little kids.” Jesse Sullivan says brightly. “You learn how to interact with little kids and you learn how to understand them and the way they think.”
“I love kids. Their always so happy and filled with energy and they make me smile.” Jarren Yamamoto, a freshman in the class, says. “I just enjoy hanging out with them.”
The high school friends buddy-system works a little different than what’s expected. Instead of each high schooler assigned one or more kids, they rotate through them, playing with all the kids. “We do this because the other way can create codependency between the toddler and the high schooler which we don’t want.” Ham says. Jesse Sullivan adds onto that. “Each time you get a new kid it’s a new set of skills you need to learn.”
Inside the minds of the preschoolers, they tell the Camasonian what they want for Christmas! “I want a toy Jeep that can ride down the sidewalks!” Christopher chirps with excitement. Alexis raises her hand and says her own, “A crystal mining set!” When asked what their favorite holiday, most said Christmas with beaming smiles.
“They ask us every day ‘are the high schoolers coming today?’ and they really enjoy it!” Ham says with a smile. So there it is. These kids aren’t just a figment of one’s imagination, they’re actually here, helping high schoolers gain experience while the high schoolers help them to learn and grow as a person. All and all, it’s one very adorable experience.