Upon walking through the doors of Castle Hills Elementary, guests are greeted with warm smiles from staff members and students who are happy to help. Maybe it’s something in the air, or the fact that summer is just around the corner, but it is safe to say that the school’s only student-originated club, Breanna’s Buddies, might also have something to do with the cheerful buzz.
Breanna’s Buddies began eight years ago and was created by former teacher Mona Effler and Breanna Bliel, who was a new student from Mexico at the time. Initially, the club was designed to welcome new students to the Castle Hills family and help ease a student’s transition into their new surroundings. Breanna has long since graduated from Hebron High School and the club is now sponsored by art teacher Elizabeth Stroud and the campus secretary Lueann Teal, but the organization’s legacy is still the same, with a couple new initiatives.
“We continue to carry out our namesake’s original intent of welcoming and mentoring new students,” Stroud said. “But we’ve expanded our mission to include yearly service projects like donation drives for The Colony Animal Shelter and Lemm Elementary, a Hurricane Harvey-impacted school.”
Zoe Heintges, a fifth-grade Buddy, added, “Breanna’s Buddies introduces new people to the school, but we also do so many other things. Like recently, we just had a donation drive where we donated school supplies to some schools that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.”
The students continue to serve as ambassadors and mentors gaining experience and confidence communicating with and helping others, but this year, the club added role-playing activities and increased opportunities for students to speak in front of their peers.
“We have seen their confidence and leadership skills increase and love to watch the older Buddies help and encourage the younger members of the group,” Stroud said.
Every new student is paired with at least one Buddy who welcomes them, eats lunch with them, makes them a welcome card, seeks them out at recess, and continues to mentor them and follow up with them throughout the year.
“With at least one Buddy in each classroom, any new student has an immediate friend on their first day,” Stroud said. “This group of kiddos represent all that we hope each of our Dragons aspire to and I believe they also serve as role models for our entire school.”
To become a Buddy, students in second through fifth grades are required to complete an application, including two teacher recommendations. Then, one student from each classroom is selected to serve as an ambassador and greet families at meet the teacher, open house and other campus-related events.
“The reason why I want to be in the group is because I like introducing people to our school,” Heintges said.
Aislin Cullen, a fourth-grade Buddy, is a firm believer in the clubs calling to help.
“Our club is a good program and helpful,” Cullen said. “People should always help one another, make new friends, and if someone is lonely, just try to help them.”
New fourth-grade student Sam Estervig added, “I like it here and I like Aislin as my new friend. At first, I was scared to walk around and talk to people, but Breanna’s Buddies made me feel better knowing I have someone by my side.”