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Buddy Classes Celebrate The Season
Settling in for some holiday reading, buddies got together from Dent Elementary and Escalon High School on Wednesday, Dec. 9 and got a surprise visit from Santa.

'Buddy' classes of Dent third grade teacher Melissa Stout and Escalon High School ELD (English Language Development) class teacher Suzette Campbell enjoyed a reading of 'The Polar Express' complete with hot chocolate, candy and a brief appearance by Santa Claus.

Campbell's classroom, the old library on the Escalon High campus, was transformed into a cozy cottage with a fireplace, Christmas tree, a window looking out onto a snow-covered meadow and more, as the classes settled in for the story.

The classes meet regularly, with the older students pairing up with a younger counterpart to share experiences, traditions and develop what hopefully will be a lasting friendship.

"We meet with them twice a month and we read, do writing and other activities," explained Mrs. Stout. "We did this last year, too, so this is our second year and the idea behind it is just to incorporate some fun activities to get past the language barrier."

Students in the high school class are working hard to improve their English skills. They also have traditional high school classes from algebra to science to history, but spend one or two periods of the day with Stout in the ELD class to improve reading, writing and English comprehension skills.

"It has been real interesting," Stout said of the buddy class system. "There have been positive effects, when they see them around town, they say 'that's my buddy' and they write letters to each other."

Miss Campbell added that students in the high school classes really took charge of the holiday celebration.

"We asked for a committee and they started meeting after school" to decorate the classroom and get it ready for the holiday, she said.

Aides Angelica Ramirez and Margarita Flores also were instrumental in developing the program.

"We might do something for Valentines Day, maybe Easter," Ramirez added of sharing holiday traditions between the students.

With some buddies taking a place on the rug in front of Stout reading from the comfy chair, other students sat by their buddies at the classroom desks. But all seemed to enjoy the story and the snack.

"I'm a big proponent of maintaining your traditions and language," Campbell said, "but also you have to fit in and become a part of the community that you now live in."

Sharing their cultures and beliefs has started the younger and older students on the path to building a bridge, she noted, which has become increasingly important to her high school students.

"They are being a mentor, being a role model," she said of her students taking some pride in being a buddy to the grade school children. "Every day you wake up, you have a chance to contribute positively to someone else's life."