Kindergartners learn from Morrilton seniors

Carol Rolf Originally Published May 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 15, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Sue Smith of Morrilton gives kindergartner Jackson Bowles words of encouragement before having a group photo taken of the members of the Puppies to Dogs 2013 mentoring program.

Graduation parties are fairly common this time of year as students prepare to move from one stage of their lives to the next. One such party attracted special attention May 2 as kindergartners from Morrilton Primary School and a group of senior English students from Morrilton High School came together to culminate this year’s Puppies to Dogs mentoring program.

The party was held at the Rialto Gallery, and the marquee of the adjoining Rialto Theater announced the event, “Beginning to End: Puppies to Dogs 2013.” Parents prepared and served lunch, which included a graduation cake, for the students.

Kindergarten graduation is set for 9:30 a.m. May 31 at the

H.B. White Auditorium at Morrilton High School. High school graduation will be at 7 p.m. Friday in Devil Dog Stadium at the high school.

High school English teacher Cody Vest said the program was started last year as a way for older kids to be mentors to the younger kids.

“But they have just as much fun as the little kids do,” Vest said with a laugh.

The seniors are in Vest’s Advanced Placement English class.

“[They] are the ones I selected because I believe they would do a good job with the little kids,” Vest said. “They are a great group of kids.”

Vest said the two groups of students get together once or twice a month to play games on iPads, have lunch and participate in activities related to special occasions, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Vest said there are plans in place to track the kindergartners throughout their school years in order to validate the program.

Kindergarten teacher Janis Horn said the Puppies to Dogs mentoring program fits in with The Leader in Me educational model that the South Conway County School District has implemented in kindergarten through the third grade. This educational model is based on the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey.

“In this program, we are teaching the kids that by doing things right at an early age, they will be rewarded with high school graduation, and then be able to go on to college,” she said. “We are stressing ‘beginning to end.’”

Morrilton Elementary School Principal Charlotte Heidenreich said she hopes the Puppies to Dogs mentoring program will “continue from now on.”

She said it is an example of one of the seven habits — begin with the end in mind. The other habits are: Be proactive; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize (creative cooperation); and sharpen the saw (enhance yourself).

Heidenreich said the seven-habits curriculum will be introduced in grades four through six next year.

“It is a way of life,” she said. “It focuses on how you treat and respect yourself and others.”

Morrilton High School Principal Danny Ketcherside also had good things to say about the program.

“Puppies to Dogs is an awesome program,” Ketcherside said. “It’s really helped the older kids communicate with the younger kids. It’s helped mold the students.

“This is only the second year for the program, so it’s too early to know what it can do [for the students]. We certainly need to continue it.”

Jackson Bowles, the 5-year-old son of Shawnna and Jim Bowles, is in the program.

“It’s been such a nice way to introduce the kids to high school and the campus and expose them to older kids and talk with them about ‘when they grow up’ stuff,” Shawnna said. “The high school kids love it and get them little presents, and by the end of the year, they fix their plates and look after them. The little kids really look up to the big kids, and the big kids take time to get to know the ‘littles.’

“Gilberto Garcia, a football player at the high school, is his mentor. He’s signed to play football at the University of Central Arkansas. It’s been so precious to see this huge football player teach my baby.

“I just think it’s been a great program and opened Jack’s eyes to wanting to grow up and be a good student and not be afraid of older kids or moving on to different campuses.”

Garcia talked about his time in the program.

“It’s been a good experience to be able to see where I was a few years back and to be able to mentor and interact with Jackson and the other kids,” Garcia said. “It’s been a neat experience.”

Garcia attended kindergarten through the 12th grade in Morrilton schools.

“It’s been fun,” Jackson said. “I liked playing games on the iPad best. I would like to play football like Gilberto.”

Senior Regist Crenshaw has been a mentor to Zechariah Williams, just like Regist is at home. The brothers are the sons of Larry and Stephanie Crenshaw.

“That’s my baby and my son,” Stephanie said with a smile. “They roughhouse at home,” she said. “But here, I see a different side of them.”

Regist, who hopes to become a mechanic after high school, said he helped Zechariah learn to count to 100.

“He can do it all day, every day,” Regist said. “That’s impressive for a kindergartner. This has been a good program.”

The other kindergartners, or “puppies,” in this year’s program are Myca Austin, Zach Blizzard, Gabbi Collins, Janet Escobar, Carleigh Gilliam, Rylee Granderson, Nicky Hammack, Summer Hill, Callie Krutsinger, Ashton Martinez, Caden Meeler, Jayce Millsap, Jamelah Pirtle, Braedon Rushing, Caleb Seekins, Mitch Spivey, Sara Taulbee and Ashlei Wadkins.

The seniors, or “dogs,” also include Becky Adams, Lydia Alabach, Kate Alzate, Tyler Burgen, Tamera Criswell, Alex Eby, Austin Foshee, Anfernee Foster, Cole Glover, Anna Guidici, Michael Hogan, Mikayla Hopkins, Caroline Horita, Elizabeth Jones, Akeem Kemp, Preston Long, Madison Meaders, Karen Rosas, Abbie Skaggs and Aleksi Stinnet.