Observing the activity at the Mentoring & More program held Monday afternoons at Stevenson Elementary School, it's hard to tell who's having more fun: the elementary schoolers or the Grandview Heights High School students they're matched with.
"We have a lot of our high school mentors say they enjoy having the chance to be a kid again," said Elisabeth Dilz, director of the TriVillage Mentor League, the agency that organizes the weekly sessions.
The league operates mentoring programs at Stevenson and at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington, Dilz said.
"It's a chance for the older and younger students to spend some time together doing fun activities," she said. "There's no homework or studying involved. It's pure fun."
The elementary schoolers must be participants in the after-school child-care program to participate in the mentoring activity, Dilz said.
The high school students are volunteers, she said.
"Some of the younger students have older brothers or sisters, but I don't think any of them have a sibling who is in high school," Dilz said. "It's nice for them to be able to spend time with someone they can look up to."
The older students can gain "a sense of the importance of being a role model and being a mentor," she said. "I think it's also a nice stress release from the pressures of high school to come spend time with the younger kids."
Grandview High School junior Zach Brannan and second-grader Danny Claypool spend their Monday afternoons together.
"This is my second year doing this," Brannan said. "I really like coming here and hanging out with Danny. We have a lot of fun together.
"It's also a way for me to earn service credit hours, but it's not just a job," he said. "For me, I can be a kid again and play one on one with Danny."
"We get to do a lot of fun things," Danny said.
"It's a lot more fun than having to do homework" in the after-school child-care program, he added.
Senior Colleen Essig has participated in the mentoring program all four years of high school. Most weeks, Essig is matched with first-grader Kendall Longbrake.
"I like the energy the kids bring to it," she said. "I enjoy spending time with them and watching them grow over the year."
It's not just the younger students who grow, Dilz said.
"You can see the high school students mature and move closer to being adults as they go through this program," she said. "We had a senior graduating last year who said he decided to major in education in college because of his experience with the mentoring program."
Each week's session includes a number of planned activities, Dilz said.
"We try to get outside as much as we can," she said.
On Monday, March 11, the rainy weather kept everyone indoors, where the students played Mad Libs together and participated in a few science experiments.
About 36 Stevenson students participate in the weekly mentoring sessions and about 40 high school students volunteer, although that number can fluctuate depending on sports and other activities that take up their time, Dilz said.
At Barrington, 22 elementary students and about 29 teen volunteers participate.
"We're always looking for more teen volunteers. In Grandview, we have a long waiting list of elementary students wanting to participate. Thirty-six is our limit," Dilz said. "Right now, we're trying to recruit high school students for next year's program."
Any Grandview or Upper Arlington high school student interested in volunteering as a mentor may email Dilz at firstname.lastname@example.org.