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School officials considering Lunch Buddies program for TZ

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- School officials are considering launching a Lunch Buddies program at Tzouanakis Intermediate School.

Volunteers for the program would commit themselves to coming to TZ to eat lunch once a week with a student they have been matched with.

Volunteers for the program must be at least 18 years of age and meet all screening requirements.

Research for the program is being spearheaded by Peggy Wood, a member of the Greencastle High School Parent Council.

The school will have to partner with a Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization to get the project underway.

Earlier this year, Wood presented some statistics to the Greencastle Community School Corp. Board of Trustees. They included:

* Mentored children are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs;

* Are 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol;

* Are 52 percent less likely to skip school;

* Are more confident in their school performance;

* Are one-third less likely to hit someone;

* And are more trusting of their parents and guardians.

Wood said any of those items would be a good reasons to institute the Lunch Buddies program, but that she was particularly interested in the effect the program might have on dropout rates at Greencastle High School.

"If we have one child drop out of high school, that's one too many," Wood said. "We can't start this program at the high school level ... we have to start at the intermediate level. I know we won't see the dropout rate diminish right away, but hopefully someday we will."

TZ principal Dan TeGrotenhuis said he thought the program would be a good fit.

"I know plenty of students who would benefit from involvement," he said.

Wood said if the program were to be put in place,

Big Brothers/Big Sisters caseworkers would be in constant contact with the Lunch Buddies volunteers, Wood said.

"Periodic evaluations are prepared to monitor progress of the relationship," she said. "They are completed by the parent, mentor, case manager and teacher."

Big Brothers/Big Sisters would be responsible for background checks and training for all program volunteers.

School officials hope the program will be launched sometime this fall.

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