The elementary school students and several parents arrived by bus for the party, which included refreshments, music from the MMA Band and gifts for each student. Each student posed for a photograph with Santa (senior Javier Salazar) and decorated a holiday picture frame to hold it. Also in attendance were MMA's on site Lunch Buddy program coordinator/librarian Fran Robley, Ms. Claus (Penny Bealmear) and two elves (eighth graders Victor Patino and Peter Casella.)
Around the room, older boys helped little ones with their craft projects, read stories to them, and of course, engaged in typical boy play, tossing foam balls in impromptu games of catch.
“I just love the friendships our cadets are making with their little Lunch Buddies,” Robley said. “They care so much about their ‘kids.’”
The Lunch Buddy program pairs an at-risk elementary school student with a community role model as part of the national Bright Futures program. Mentors eat lunch with their buddy at least once a month and often attend recess or class with their buddy.
Local teachers and Bright Futures volunteers have praised the cadets' participation, including one teacher who sent a thank you note to explain how one little boy's demeanor has changed significantly since he was paired with an MMA senior.
The party was planned and funded by MMA faculty and staff, who also chipped in to make goodie bags that included books, small toys, candy treats and gloves.
The event was considered an enormous success, as cadets escorted their little "kids" out of the library to the buses, some of them carrying them on their shoulders.
MMA interim academic dean Edsel Baker summed up the afternoon. "It was a joy to see the holiday chaos in the library."
What is the best part of being a Lunch Buddy?
The best part is seeing the happiness of the kids. Leonardo Caruzo ‘17
The best part of being a Lunch Buddy is just hanging out with my little buddy. And just talking about what has been happening in his life and just having fun. Matthew Ghidey ’18
Having a little best friend! Pedro DaRocha ’18
Why did you decide to become a Lunch Buddy?
I decided to become a Lunch Buddy because I really just wanted to make a huge impact on a child's life and show them that … their life matters. Plus, seeing a smile on their faces makes me satisfied because it shows that my buddy and I are connecting. Matthew Ghidey ’18
What is your favorite thing to do with your buddy?
My buddy's name is Alex and he loves to run. We usually to play many games together. Leonardo Caruzo ‘17
My buddy's name is Houston. Houston is a very funny, outgoing [kid]. One of my favorite things to do with my buddy Houston is to play kickball and talk about our favorite NFL team: the New York Giants. Matthew Ghidey ’18
Elijah. He is a really smart and adventurous kid. He likes to play tag and swing. Pedro DaRocha ’18