How to Start a Buddy Program

Data shows that buddy programs inspire learning and create positive and lasting connections between individuals, families, and schools. As the volunteer and buddy get to know one another, trust builds and everyone becomes more invested.

In St. Louis, HOME WORKS! has engaged volunteers to partner with schools and engage with young students and their families. 

In our buddy program, some pairs have regular meetings to read together. Others check in to praise students for participating in school and to confirm that their technology tools are working properly.

Strong, positive relationships are built on consistency, communication, and intentionality. It’s important that every interaction with students is positive because research by Carol Dweck and others shows that praising children for their effort, which is known as “process praise,” can foster the most essential attitude for success -- the belief they can improve through effort. Process praise can inspire students to keep working at challenging tasks.

What does a volunteer buddy do?

Volunteers typically read to their buddies for 15-30 minutes each week, by phone or Zoom. They also send one or more positive texts to the parent or guardian, and to the student. To measure impact and keep the school informed, HOME WORKS! buddies are asked to keep a record of their involvement and any notable results in this tracker.

How are students chosen and assigned to volunteer buddies?

Students are typically chosen by their teacher because they’ve had low attendance or low engagement in classwork or learning. The teacher believes additional contact will help the student become more excited about learning and more likely to attend school every day.
I must admit I was a little nervous when I first became a volunteer buddy, but it has proven to be such a joyful experience. My student buddy is so enthusiastic. Over Zoom, he even introduced me to his little sister and gave me a tour of his room in between reading from our books. The teachers are so helpful as well.CHRIS SCHMIZ, BUDDY TO A SECOND-GRADER