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Lunch Buddy Program Gives Students Extra Support

Vivion (left) posing with Jose (right) at their lunch table.
Vivian Millon (left) and José, at their lunch table.

The first time Vivian Millon met José, a cheerful third-grader at Pleasant Glade Elementary, she was instantly charmed.   

“We talked a lot about our families, things that make us happy and things that make us sad. He was so happy to hear that we had a lot in common, including our love of food,” said Millon, payroll supervisor for North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS).  

Millon and José are part of the NTPS Lunch Buddy mentoring program, which matches a caring adult with a student for some extra weekly one-on-one attention and friendship over lunch or recess. They play games, do arts and crafts, and have fun.  

“I like just hanging out with my Lunch Buddy,” said José. “My favorite thing we've done is playing with Play-Doh. We put smelly stuff in it to make it smell good.” 

Pleasant Glade hosted the Lunch Buddy pilot program this spring. Principal Jessica Flanick says each mentor has made a positive and unique impact on their individual student. “Some students have grown in their confidence, some students have grown in their ability to trust, but all students light up when their mentor comes to spend time with them,” she said. 

The mentor program supports and empowers students by providing them with positive role models who can help them with decision-making, goal-setting, social awareness, and relationship skills. 

“Being a mentor has been an eye-opener for me,” Millon said. “I’ve worked at the district office for over 26 years and never realized what it takes to teach and care for school children, and the impact we have on their lives at home and our community.”  

Studies show that students with mentors have increased graduation rates, better attitudes about school, and improved attendance, academics, and behaviors, said Courtney Schrieve, Mentor Program liaison for the district. NTPS is planning to expand the Lunch Buddy program beyond Pleasant Glade next year. 

“We need more mentors, especially men, and members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) community,” Schrieve said. “While it’s a big commitment, it’s worth the time and energy invested in the student.” 

If you would like to be a mentor for the 2023-24 school year, please call 360-412-4487 or email to learn more.