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Big Minion, Little Minion: Killdeer students fostering relationships among grade levels

Students of all ages are changing one another's lives at Killdeer Public Schools. About two years ago, Trae Murray was working at a kids basketball camp put on by her basketball team in Killdeer. There was a little girl on her team who needed a l...

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Students of all ages are changing one another's lives at Killdeer Public Schools.

About two years ago, Trae Murray was working at a kids basketball camp put on by her basketball team in Killdeer. There was a little girl on her team who needed a little more help than the other players and was incredibly shy. Over the course of the week, Murray was able to form a relationship with the little girl, something very few people outside her family, including her teachers, had been able to do.

Murray's assistant basketball coach Ashley Jelly later decided to start a program called Big Minion, Little Minion to pair high school students with elementary students in hopes of helping the younger kids academically and socially, in addition to uniting the student body. Murray knew exactly who her minion would be.

Murray, now a junior, has seen the progress in her now fourth grade minion, Reese.

"When I'm around, she's just like completely out of her box - it's like she wants to show me that's she's getting better too," Murray said. "She's just super, super sweet."

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Murray visits Reese in the classroom daily where she helps her with her homework, reads with her one-on-one and goes with her to gym class twice a week. Reese struggles in some areas academically, but Murray said she has noticed her growth in the classroom. Now when Murray gets up to leave, she watches Reese reading on her own without hesitation or putting herself out there in gym class.

"It's kind of hard to put into words," Murray said. "It really opens up your eyes, I guess, like how much of an impact us older kids have on these younger kids like learning who they want to be, and that it's OK to be whoever you are and to grow up with good inspirations and role models."

Jelly, who also works as Killdeer's elementary physical education teacher, said there are about 70 students in the program between the older and younger minions. She pairs high school students with elementary students who may struggle in the classroom or may need to improve social skills. But the younger children are not the only ones benefitting.

"It's been a really great way to build up a lot of the younger kids' confidence, but I think the best part about is that you start to see the older kids become more confident in themselves as well," Jelly said. "... That's been the best part - you just see each kid get excited and knowing that they're making a difference in each other's lives."

Senior Gabi Flaget, this year's co-president of the program, said the program has brought the school together. All grade levels from kindergarten through high school are in the same building, so the students see one another in the halls, no matter what age. But now, there is more of a relationship between the older and younger students.

"I think that the Big Minion, Little Minion program kind of brightens the kids' days to go to school too," Flaget said. "... It brightens everyone's day. If you see little kids freaking out over you saying hi to them, it just warms your heart."

Murray noted that younger students now jump up to give high school students high-fives in the hallway. They come to sporting events and crowd the front row of the stands cheering and clapping for their mentors, for their friends.

Some of the younger children involved in the program may struggle in the classroom, struggle to make friends or have other problems they may be dealing with, but the program allows them to have someone they can turn to, someone who is always going to be there for them, Murray said.

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In turn, Murray said the program has been an eye-opener for her as well as she realized that some students do struggle more than others, that some students have to make multiple attempts to learn something in the classroom or pick up a skill on the court.

"Just knowing that a regular high school student like me could have such a huge impact on a little life like Reese's... She wouldn't be the person that she is now, and like how far she's got, she wouldn't be here without me, and that just like blows my mind," Murray said. "And I wouldn't be who I am today without her. She has taught me many, many things as well."

The program also has a Go Fund Me page to raise money for two scholarships for senior minions pursuing higher education, as a thank you to those who devote their time to helping their younger peers.

Related Topics: KILLDEER
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