Big Little Gator Notes on locker

Middle School Counselor Ms. Hope Hallock and Mr. Rick Westerkamp, Middle School Dean of Students, have launched the Big Gator Little Gator program in Middle School. The program is designed to foster connection between older and younger students as Grade 8 students serve as “Big Gator” mentors to “Little Gator” Grade 5 students. Once the students are paired, their connection remains throughout the year as they arrange meeting times during lunch or break periods and other all-school community events. 

The goal is for the Big and Little Gators to meet at least once a month to ensure students transitioning into Middle School have the appropriate help they need. “At this age, middle schoolers begin listening and modeling adults less and older peers more,” says Ms. Hallock, “programs like these promote confidence, self-esteem, and positive, meaningful relationships.” These relationships often have a lasting impact on the students as the older students normalize social-emotional skills, study habits, how to navigate gossip, and other friendship issues to find balance amongst the multiple demands of being a student. 

Even as a voluntary program, younger and older students are excited to participate. Grade 8 students are most eager to engage in meaningful activities and develop rituals, like sharing notes of encouragement on lockers with their Little Gators and nurturing respectful and inclusive relationships. “Students are choosing to give of their time and commit to growing a relationship throughout the year,” Ms. Hallock says. She hopes students see the positive impact they can have on one another, from Grade 8 students gaining confidence and sharing their gifts to Grade 5 students feeling a sense of belonging and support, the program deeply reflects Goals III, IV, and V of Sacred Heart education and is another day-to-day example of living our mission.