New ‘Big Spartans Little Spartans’ program takes mentoring to new level

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When Lima Senior High School senior James Moore looks at fifth-grader E’Jorden Crocket, he sees himself just a few years ago.

And when E-Jorden looks back, he sees who he wants to be someday.

“When I see him, I want to grow up to be just like him,” the Lima North Middle School fifth grader said. “I want to play football and I want to get good grades. Meeting him has been the best.”

The two are one of the many matches though a new Big Spartans Little Spartans program in the Lima City Schools that is creating important Spartan friendships that will make a difference beyond just this school year.

The program is a partnership between Lima North Middle School and DECA marketing students at Lima Senior. It is a mentoring program that goes much farther.

“The Big Spartans help their Little Spartans with school work and homework and do other activities, but we also want them talking about college, academics, jobs and their futures,” said North Guidance Counselor Liz Smith.

Thirty-three DECA students work one-on-one with fifth and sixth-graders at North, but many additional North students are also impacted. The high school students eat lunch at North, but not necessarily with their Little Spartan.

“We want them sitting down at the tables and talking with the kids,” Smith said. “They are really building relationships with those kids too. The program is really serving 185 of our students”

The Big Spartans and Little Spartans are creating memory boards together and doing other individual and group activities.

Smith said DECA students will plan activities for the North students, as well as a possible community event. One project will be a food drive and a campus wear clothing drive for the school. Both the DECA and North students will work on this.

North teachers recommended students they thought would benefit from the program. Then Smith worked closely with DECA teachers to match the students.

“These DECA students are great role models for our kids,” Smith said. “Our goal is to give our students positive influences beyond just our staff. We think it will help with attendance, behavior, academics and give them a feeling of belonging.”

DECA teacher Christina Hood said her students benefit from the program too. They have embraced giving back and making a difference in the younger students’ lives.

“Each week our DECA members come back excited and feel empowered to know they are giving back to the community and school district,” she said. “As teachers, we are so excited to see the relationships develop and to be providing this meaningful experience for all involved.”

James and two other DECA students will use the Big Spartans Little Spartans program in competition this year. For now though, James’s goal is to give his “Little” some extra guidance, help with school work and friendship.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” said James, who attended North. “And it feels good to give back to this school.”

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