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story.lead_photo.caption LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER Malachi Baker, who is in kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary, clowns around with his lunch buddy and mentor, Deon Birkes, assistant principal for Lincoln High School and the district's athletic director.

LINCOLN -- Dennis Miles Jr., with EMS Inc. in Dutch Mills, has spent his lunch hour every other week for the past four months eating with a young buddy at Lincoln Elementary School.

The relationship between Miles and his new friend, Vance Shook, 8, is just what school administrators had hoped a new mentoring program would accomplish at the elementary school and middle school.

"They have so much in common and they just clicked," said Jill Jackson, elementary school principal. "It's been wonderful to watch."

Miles is one of 30 adults who volunteered twice a month during the second semester to eat lunch with a student.

"I think it's pretty awesome," Miles said about the Lunch Buddy program. "It's really good for students who maybe don't get as much attention at home."

Miles has seen a change in Vance since the two started eating lunch together in January.

At first Vance was shy and standoffish.

Now, as soon as Vance sees Miles at school, the young boy comes up to give a hug.

"We've bonded in a very short period of time," Miles said.

Vance has nice things to say about his buddy as well.

"He's real nice and he's kind to others and to me," Vance said.

The two talk about different subjects. Vance likes super heroes. Spiderman is his favorite. He also likes to read.

But Miles also has talked to Vance about strategies on how to deal with his behavior and how to calm down in certain situations.

Vance said one thing he has learned he can do when he gets angry is to sit on his bottom on his hands.

Mary Ann Spears, superintendent of Lincoln Consolidated School District, began talking about a mentoring program for children after attending a Bright Futures conference last spring. She was especially impressed with a program in Mexico, Mo., where mentors were meeting with 200 students once a week during their lunch period.

Spears came back to Lincoln and immediately began pushing for Lincoln to have its own mentoring program.

Jackson has taken over the Lunch Buddy program for Lincoln and she hopes to double the number of students and adults involved in it next year.

"This is something for the kids and they look forward to it," Jackson said. "It's a goal for them to work toward and it is someone they can have a positive relationship with. This is to help build up their self-esteem."

Jackson said the school looked at several factors when deciding what students to try to sign up for the program.

"When making the decision on what students would benefit from this program, we used teacher and counselor recommendation. I also work with several parents and asked their permission in providing their child with a lunch buddy, to offer them some extra support throughout the school day. Typically it was a combination of factors, but we knew it would a successful benefactor of their day," Jackson said.

The lunch buddy system brings another adult into the students' lives, in addition to their parents or teachers, she added.

Anyone interested in volunteering as a lunch buddy can email Jackson at jjackson@lincoln.k12.ar.us.

General News on 06/06/2018

Print Headline: Lunch Buddies Bond Over Cafeteria Food

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