After a few minutes of free play in the beautiful fresh sunshine, the group gathers in a circle on the hardwood floors inside. Chandler, one of the Warren Wilson student coordinators of Kids On Campus asks the group to reflect on their year. Everyone of the matches has now been matched for at least over six months, three of them are in at least their second year—every relationship has seen so much growth and the Bigs and Littles both become quietly pensive as they’re asked to say something they learned from one another over the course of the year. Hmmm…
“I’ve learned the value of relationships,” says Big Brother Andew, who was matched with 5th grader James in September. “Because it’s hard meeting new people and it’s hard meeting someone who’s different from you. Meeting James—I was actually scared, because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how hard it would to forge a friendship. But now—he’s a really good friend of mine.”
After a bit of silence, Little Sister Dezariah chimes in, “I’ve learned that if you’re having a bad day and are sad, that you can always come here where you have a Big Sister of a Big Brother and they can always cheer you up.”
“This year, I’ll be taking away from KOC a strong sense of friendship,” says Little Brother Chris, a sixth grader who was completing his second year being matched with his Big Brother Brian.
“Same here, Chris” says Brian, “And, I learned that in order to make a really strong relationship with any person and in any friendship you have to have trust in the other person and that you need to build that up over a long period of time by doing things together and by being with each other. Knowing that the other person is going to put in effort—I’ve seen Chris do a lot of that—and it’s actually taught me a lot about how to build friendships in the future too.”
After an activity-packed year, the Kids On Campus group has a lot of favorite memories to reflect on. Since the group is situated right on campus at Warren Wilson, these students and their Littles have access to miles of nature trails, farm animals, meadows and other interesting and novel haunts.
One of the most momentous activities, reflects assistant group coordinator, Chandler, was when the group went down to the stables to visit WWC’s two 1,200 pound draft horses:
“We took the whole group down there and they got to clean them, groom them, help clean their hooves, pet them and put their tack on,” she says, laughing, “It was just really great to see how excited they were. Some of them were pretty scared at first and didn’t want to approach these huge animals. But after awhile, they all got in there and pet them and had a lot of fun.”
As we all started wrapping up the reflection activity and got ready to move toward making some ice-cream, Marick, a tenth grader planning on a third year in the program in the fall of 2018—hopefully with his same Big Brother—Bobby—offers a bit of wisdom to the group: “I’ve learned that no matter what people think—not to judge people by it, by who they are or what they like.”
The KOC program is unique in that, like BBBS’ School-Based and After-School programs, it is site based—but it’s not in the child’s schools or at an after-school site. Rather, KOC is situated on a college campus, which over the course of the year gives these Littles an intimate familiarity with college life that they wouldn’t be able to gain from a mere visit. Part of the vision and hope for the program is that by spending time with students on campus, Littles can more clearly envision higher education in their futures and naturally start planning for it.
And it isn’t just the kids that benefit uniquely from the program, observes KOC lead student coordinator and group lead Faith:
“When most of us reach college, we haven’t had the chance to develop the skills needed to be a mentor and many have not had an immersive experience like this: giving back by developing relationships—because we’ve pretty much been kids ourselves,” she says, “But now, I’m finally able to see that I am changing someone’s life through mentoring. It’s a great opportunity and it inspires these kids to do the same as they grow older.”
As we wrap up our reflection activity, Faith announces that we’re going to now make some ice cream! Everyone rushes over to the counter where the supplies are waiting: heavy whipping cream, half and half, sugar, vanilla. coarse ground salt, ice and quart sized and gallon zip-lock bags.
Ever made ice cream this way? I hadn’t, and if I’d known it was so easy, I’d probably make a daily habit out of it.
You put your cream, sugar and vanilla in the quart sized zip-lock and then you zip it up and drop that into the gallon zip lock. Now, in that gallon sized bag, you shovel in your ice and a few spoonfuls of coarse salt. Now shake. Shake like crazy. The party began with the shaking.
Marick—who had just started playing around on the guitar three weeks before—serenaded the group with the opening lines to Stairway to Heaven which helped with any tedium—and voilå: ICE CREAM!
As the KOC group comes to adjourn yet another year, the matches eat fresh, homemade ice cream and laugh for a group photo. They bid each other farewell. Some will return for a second and third year together. Some Bigs will return even though they are graduating this month.
Other matches will start anew in September: new Bigs will arrive a little nervous, wondering who they’re about to meet, whether they have what it takes to make this interesting, whether their Little will like them. Maybe they won’t quite be sure what it’s going to take to form a strong friendship, to establish trust. Littles will feel the same—but together, they’ll meet in the middle to embark on an adventure where they can learn all about it and gain a friend in the process