The friendships between Seniors and their Kindergarten buddies serve as a representation of Collegiate’s strong community.
Angelo Parker ’22 looks out on a Grover Jones Field emblazoned in green and gold. It’s the day of Convocation, the School’s annual celebration that kicks off the year, and on top of Angelo’s shoulders is his Kindergarten buddy, Jack Jenkins ’34, who is wearing the smile of someone that has just made a new best friend. The two met earlier that week as part of Collegiate’s tradition of pairing each Senior with a Kindergarten buddy, and both of them immediately recognized the strength of their relationship.
For Angelo, who came to Collegiate as a 4th Grader, the friendship signified the culmination of his career as a Cougar. He remembers, during previous Convocation ceremonies as a Sophomore and Junior, watching the Seniors bond with their buddies, waiting with eager anticipation for the day that he would get his own buddy. Then his Senior year came, and the moment to meet his buddy arrived.
“Convocation was a really special moment for me and Jack,” Angelo recalls. “I finally made it to this point in life where I could have my Kindergarten buddy on my shoulders, and to see Jack smiling and laughing made me smile and laugh. Jack looked as though he was on top of the world, and that almost brought tears to my eyes. It made me feel like a Cougar.”
The friendship grew from there. The two spend their time reading books together, talking about dinosaurs and robots (Jack, because of his fascination with dinosaurs, can’t bring himself to appreciate robots the same way Angelo does) and discussing classwork. Most importantly, though, having a Kindergarten buddy has given Angelo a leadership role. “Jack looks up to me a lot,” he says. “It’s really meaningful when a younger student looks up to you. He sees me as a leader, which means I have to be the best version of myself as a mentor so that he can become the best version of himself.”
A mentorship role can bear many responsibilities, but Angelo sees himself as a friend first and foremost — somebody for Jack to rely on and to trust. “I really feel like I am there for Jack as a friend,” Angelo says. “It’s good to know you have a friend in Kindergarten, because that makes me feel comfortable, and my role is to make him feel comfortable, too, as a new student at Collegiate.”
Like so many great friendships, the bond between Angelo and Jack has led to more connections, including between the students’ families. “Angelo has legitimately become one of Jack’s best friends, and through it we have developed such a wonderful friendship with Angelo's family,” says Jack’s father Peyton Jenkins ’00. Like all great friendships, the relationship between Angelo and Jack have revealed things about their own character. “Through Angelo’s actions,” he continues, “Jack is learning what it's like to be in a position of influence. He’s learning how to be a gentleman, to be fun, to be gracious and how to be a light to someone else.”
Through friendship there are lessons. The philosophy, Angelo says, is an embodiment of the Collegiate spirit. The unique connection between Seniors and Kindergartners demonstrates the unity of the School. “Collegiate is just a really strong community because of connections like these,” Angelo explains. “It is because of the Senior and Kindergarten buddy pairings that relationships among other grade levels are so strong.”