Modifying Normal Life During COVID-19: Patriot Buddies


Carrollwood Day School

Lauren Smith

Patriot Buddies video-calling their buddies
Carrollwood Day School

   Every school year since 2012 first graders and seniors are paired together within their interests in a program called Patriot Buddies. To help integrate first graders into the Bearss Ave campus atmosphere, this buddy system allows them to feel welcome in a larger learning environment and not feel intimidated by older students.Most of the activities that have been CDS traditions in the past weren’t able to take place this school year as a result of COVID-19, and that includes the Patriot Buddy ceremonies and activities. With the entire school attending, two Patriot Buddy ceremonies were held each year. Obviously with the pandemic, that is not an option. The school is looking to hold the Patriot Buddy ceremony on the field. This idea would allow the school to meet the buddies of 2021, as they did in years prior.

   So far, the buddies have only met once, during Book-O-Ween, a lower school Halloween celebration. The seniors were allowed to stand in the courtyard to cheer on their buddy as they marched down the path as their favorite book character. The school has also set up a digital communication board for buddies. In order to make it easier for the first graders,“we set it up with a picture of them next to their buddy, so that they would know how to find each other”, Director of Marketing Nicki Ragan said. While it is an effort to maintain the tradition, it has not taken off. “Most of the groups don’t talk enough; it depends on the group”, said Nicki Ragan.

   First graders were each given a “reveal bag”, that included a t-shirt and a paper telling them who they got. Harper Latini, a first grader, still feels the connection to her buddies. One of the most exciting things for Latini through this time was when she found out who her Patriot Buddies were. “When we heard about it, we got these little cards; when we first got them we started to get little notes, but now we have the Patriot Post”. As she was asked about her buddies (seniors Paige Behuniak and Mary Bondurant), Latini said, “I can’t really see them… but I still can send them notes.” Latini has only seen one of her Buddies in person throughout this whole experience, but she does send them notes on the Patriot Post occasionally. 

   Like the first graders, the seniors feel the changes this year. “COVID ruined it, I’ve been looking forward to it since I got here in 6th grade,” senior Ella Wilde said. Wilde also said the message board is “kind of hard to keep up with because the parents don’t know if they are supposed to be checking it or if the teachers are.” Even though they are frustrated by not being able to talk as often as they would like, Wilde said, “I feel more connected than I thought I would when this started.”

   As part of their legacy that is going to be left at CDS in the spring as they go off to college, these seniors are hopeful that one of their last experiences helps to shape the future of their school. Patriot Buddies allows new waves of students to be brought into CDS by the current leaders of the school, and although not in person and the ideal circumstances, the tradition still lives on.