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Big kids come back to class at Buffalo Ridge Elementary

Rock Canyon High School senior Coleman Squalls and Rocky Heights Middle School eighth grader, JT Snowden volunteer each week for BRE first grade teachers Terra Shaffner, Jennifer Miller, and Jennifer Murdock.

Article and photo by Elean Gersack

Classrooms at Buffalo Ridge Elementary School (BRE) are full of busy little students. The younger ones are learning to read, learning to write, and tackling arithmetic problems. The older ones take academic know-how to a higher level as they sleuth out facts from fiction and predict outcomes while problem solving. All the while, middle school, high school and college kids are eager to help.

BRE welcomes and encourages former students to volunteer at the school. JT Snowden is one such student. As an eighth grader at Rocky Heights Middle School, he is involved in National Junior Honor Society and needs community service hours. To fulfill his hours, he knew exactly where he wanted to be … with his former first and second grade teacher, Jennifer Miller.

Once or twice a week, Snowden visits his former teacher’s classroom to help shelve books, organize books by reading level, or work in small groups with students. “He is such a role model for the kids. He remembers just what it was like being in first grade in my classroom and even remembers where everything is,” said Miller.

Snowden enjoys helping his former teacher. “I love working with the kids and helping Mrs. Miller. I would always come visit her every year, and now I get to see her every week,” said Snowden.

In addition to former students, BRE welcomes senior studies students, like Rock Canyon High School senior Coleman Squalls. Senior studies is an independent study class for seniors which helps prepare them for college. The seniors are able to select from approximately 50 locations where they spend several hours each week helping and learning. BRE is always a top choice for students.

First grade teacher Terra Shaffner says that Squalls is a mentor for the little ones in her class. He helps with small groups, one-on-one review, and group read alouds when she needs time to focus with a smaller group on her own. “The kids are besides themselves. They look forward to seeing him and showing him what they can do,” added Shaffner.

Squalls says that the senior studies class is preparing him for college and teaching him how to use his time wisely. Most importantly, he loves working with the kids, Mrs. Shaffner, and Mrs. Murdock.

Currently, BRE has about 15 student mentors helping at the school. Kristin Duran, volunteer coordinator for BRE, approves the students and places them as needed.

“We must have made a difference, because they remembered us in a good, positive way and they want to come back and be a part of the team helping other students,” said Duran about the former BRE students who come back to volunteer.

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