During the Jan. 18 pajama day assembly, sophomore Eagle Buddies took the opportunity to personally tell their grade 3 pals how proud they were of them for collecting books and pajamas on behalf of children in need.
The upper school students had traveled to the lower school campus as part of the Eagle Buddies program, and to participate in the assembly, which celebrated the grade 3 service project collecting items to donate to the Pajama Program, a nationally run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing new sleepwear and books to kids waiting to be adopted (for the full story on the drive, see the HNO article.)
The assembly was held in the gym on the Bucknall campus, with participants wearing a colorful assortment of robes, pajamas, slippers and snuggly knit hats. Pink robes were all the rage for the grade 3 girls, many of whom sported ponytails and pigtails, while a large number of boys wore jammies showing off their favorite super heroes.
Although wearing sleepwear was optional, almost all of the younger students were dressed in their pajamas, and some of the upper school students wore them as well. Those who didn’t had on Eagle Buddies polo shirts instead. And, to the delight of students, most of the grade 3 faculty showed off their favorite nightwear, adding to the fun, festive atmosphere of the assembly.
Before the assembly officially began, the eager third graders connected with their older Eagle Buddies for a short period of mingling and socializing. The sophomores had been encouraged to bring items to donate to the Pajama Program, which is one of the lower school’s supported charities.
Grade 3 student Alyssa Tomberg said she recommends other schools get involved in the Pajama Program, as well as have an Eagle Buddies program of their own. Her classmate, Antonio Mele, echoed her sentiments, calling the Eagle Buddies program “pretty cool.”
Mele added that the most fun he’s had with his two buddies so far was playing soccer and getting to know each other at the first Eagle Buddies event of the school year. He added that he hopes one day, when he’s older, he can be an Eagle Buddy to a younger student.
Meanwhile, Angeline Kiang, another young Eagle Buddy, said she is used to hanging around with older kids as she has a teenage sibling. Her favorite thing to do with her buddies is simply to hang out. “I love talking with them.”
As the assembly officially got under way, Ken Allen, the lower school’s dean of students, reminded the audience that this is Harker’s sixth year of running the pajama and book drive for children who often come to shelters with “just the clothes on their backs.”
Following his talk, Pallie Zambrano, a spokesperson for the Pajama Program, took to the podium to thank Harker students for supporting the drive and enabling hundreds of children to have new pajamas and books.
Butch Keller, upper school head, then approached the stage wearing a dark robe and slippers. He sat down in a rocking chair and read a book called “Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook” to the children in his warm, distinctive voice, as the lights in the gym were slowly dimmed to set the mood of a bedtime story.
Keller, who received a big round of applause, originally came up with the idea for the Eagle Buddies program in an effort to help bridge the campus divide. The buddies stay together for three years, until the sophomores graduate and the third graders matriculate into middle school.
Concluding the assembly, the Eagle Buddies teamed up to read a book together, which the students selected from a big blue bin holding popular, age-appropriate, scholastic chapter books. Soon after, the pals headed off for a special lunch together before the older students returned via buses to resume their day at the upper school.
Eagle Buddies activities continued the next week, as on Jan. 24 there were two more events, one for juniors and fourth graders and another for seniors and their grade 5 buddies.
Clad in their Eagle Buddies shirts, the juniors hosted their fourth grade friends for “clown day” at the upper school. After eating lunch in the gym together, the students watched a performance by professional clowns, and then were given the opportunity to try a few clown tricks themselves.
That same day the seniors went off to the lower school during their eighth period to watch a special showing of the grade 5 play, “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Jr.,” in which all of their Eagle Buddies performed. The sneak preview was held in the gym, where the actual show occurred the following evening. The play, based on the beloved children’s book by Jeff Brown, was free of charge.
“I think Eagle Buddies is a really great concept. For the older buddy the experience is a way to return to a place where school is just really exciting and fun, filled with new experiences,” observed 15-year-old Tiara Bhatacharya, a sophomore Eagle Buddy who has attended Harker since kindergarten.
“Hanging out with your Eagle Buddy is also great because they’re so energetic, hilarious and willing to share as much of their lives with you as possible,” she added.