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Hanging with my Hawthorne Buddies

By: Kristen Joyce

I want to begin by noting how privileged I truly feel to be able to showcase this spectacular program named “Hawthorne Buddies”. I heard that there would be a spotlight on an activity offered by Hawthorne Elementary School and I was immediately drawn to it since I attended Hawthorne from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Currently, I volunteer with this program, and you can too!

Hawthorne Elementary School is regarded as being one of the smaller elementary schools in the district, priding itself on the slogan, “the little school with the big heart.” I reached out to the club sponsors, Mrs. Schubert and Ms. Theodore (my second-grade teacher). As well as Hawthorne’s principal, Mrs. Zimmer. Hawthorne Buddies occurs weekly on Wednesdays starting October and ending the week leading up to Spring Break.

Hawthorne Buddies started up a few years back, as teachers attempted to have some level of socialization for the elementary students. For a time, Hawthorne Buddies took place over a virtual call where students would sign in and interact with their buddies. The program also moved in-person and has now developed into its present style.

Hawthorne Buddies is a program that takes place from 3:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. with age groups varying from kindergarten through the fourth grade. The groups consist of students in the EL (English Language) program. The group that I have been assigned to is the kindergarteners. Each grade is separated into groups and around two Wheaton North students are allocated to each group. The session starts with all of the kids obtaining snacks and mingling as they enjoy them. Previously, there was an extracurricular activity called “Clef Club” which is an activity where the younger kids have the chance to sing and dance to catchy songs. This has now been integrated into Hawthorne Buddies and its agenda. Following snack time, kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders go into a part of the library and space themselves out on a mat. There are moments when they must diverge into small groups and utilize their critical thinking skills to determine how many people can be in a group. And yes, this incorporates the Wheaton North Buddies! It is quite an adorable sight to see the kids welcome the Wheaton North students into their dances.

After the songs conclude, everyone is given time to read a book until they have the chance to play games. When I first began volunteering with this program, I was not anticipating any of the students to gravitate toward me to read to them since they were more accustomed to other Wheaton North students. Nonetheless, I stand corrected. One of the kindergarteners ran up to me to read her a book, and she brought her fellow kindergartener friend along so I could read to them. Something that I adore about this program is how kind and colloquial each student is. They filled me in with moments in the book that were shocking to them and sweetly complimented my outfits.

Once the reading ends, the buddies begin to play games. These range from puzzles, Zingo (a rendition of Bingo that is actually quite fun!), Who’s Who?, Hedbanz, etc. In my group, they were playing Zingo as well as doing a 100-piece puzzle. One of the kindergartners was about to win the game of Zingo, and paused until I could win alongside her. So sweet.

I asked students “What is your favorite memory from this year?” The most common response was “[The] Christmas party!” At this Christmas party, there were a multitude of snacks provided as well as the students acquiring backpacks that were filled with goodies and trinkets for them to keep. Alongside that, I asked, “What is your favorite part about being in this group?” and the most common answer was that it was fun. They liked the snacks (shocker), and they got to spend time with their friends, and their buddies. I want to thank Mrs. Schubert, Ms. Theodore, and Mrs. Zimmer at Hawthorne for the opportunity to volunteer with our buddies. I truly do recommend anyone interested in this program to get involved.

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