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Brave Buds program comes to Gladstone

Some of the Gladstone High School senior mentors involved in the new peer-to-peer program called “Brave Buds” pose for a photo in the halls of Gladstone High School recently. Pictured from left: Michael Hagebusch, Izzy Houseman, Emily Marenger, Jenna Tardiff and Daniel Helman. Other mentors in the program are Andie Balenger, Taelor Zeise, Camden Griggs, Hallie Miron, Heidi Mitchell, David Robataille, Regan Salo and Alex Williams. (Photo by Clarissa Kell, Escanaba Daily Press)

By CLARISSA KELL

Escanaba Daily Press

GLADSTONE — Towards the end of last school year, Gladstone High School was preparing to implement a peer-to-peer mentoring program similar to Escanaba’s successful MoBuddies program. Now, the peer-to-peer program at Gladstone has a name and a total of 26 students involved.

Andy Jacques, the principal at the high school, said the new Brave Buds program at Gladstone is still in its early stages, and it’s not only helping the students within the program, but it’s also making the culture in the building more positive.

“So we’re still in the early stages of working with these kids, but I think the students seem really, really excited about it, and it’s just good for kids,” he said. “It’s really good for our kids here, it’s good to have students that aren’t even a part of the program able to see the good things that are happening and the times that students are helping each other out and leaning on each other.”

The program pairs students who have learning disabilities or who may not have friends with general education students as a way to show support and foster behaviors and relationships that help create a positive environment. The program is offered as an elective credit course.

According to Jacques, the program is starting small, but the plan is to expand next year to address more students needs.

“Right now we have right around (13) kids that are a part of the program that are our mentors of the Brave Buds. And they’re working with right around the same number of kids … with special needs,” he said.

He added the classification of special needs ranges from students needing social help to academic help to just needing somebody to listen and lean on.

The mentors within the program are mostly seniors.

Jacques explained all of the mentors had to go through an application process to become a part of the program.

The students chosen as the Brave Buds are a variety of ages from 9th to 12th grade.

Jacques said there were discussions with the teachers to figure out which students would benefit the most from the program.

Jeanne Brant, a physical education and health teacher for the middle and high schools, is the coordinator for the program.

Jacques said it’s Brant who works directly with the kids in the program and pairs the kids up.

“She’s done all the work with this — she’s done a ton of work and she has a passion for this type of work,” Jacques said. “I’m just so proud of her and how our Brave mentors have grabbed (onto) this and really took ownership. I mean this is our first year and they are so proud to say that they are starting something new and something that’s going to last for — as long as I’m going to be here.”

Izzy Houseman, a Brave mentor, said the whole experience of being the first students involved in the brand new program is exciting.

“It’s really exciting to be able to say you started a program,” she said. “I think it’ll be fun in the future to see how it evolved and how they kinda played off of what we started.”

Another mentor, Daniel Helman, described the experience as stressful.

“With it being the first year we have nothing that we know works yet,” he said. “It’s also very stressful trying to get everything figured out.”

Despite feeling the pressure of implementing a new program, Helman said he felt the peer-to-peer program at Gladstone is important because it provides an opportunity for both the mentors and mentees to form friendships and allows the mentors to break-out of their shells.

Houseman said she knows how scary it is being new to high school and how important friendships are in the high school experience. She said it’s special to be that friend for someone.

The students want to do more with the program outside of school — like bringing their Brave Buds to sporting events. However, the students are currently focusing on revamping a room within the high school building for their “Brave Buds Lounge.” Some are even spending part of their weekend painting the room Saturday.

Jacques said the students have been asking for donations to help with the lounge. He said some local companies have donated items like furniture and money to help the kids make the room their own.

“It’s a place for the kids to relax, play games, bond and get a lot of work done while they’re together,” he said.

Jacques said if anybody wants to donate towards helping the peer-to-peer program to contact him at the school.