Fourth-year international relations student Brooke Cheeks spent the past two summers working for the Town of Sackville as the summer program co-ordinator. In her first year in the position she created the Big Buddy Program, which is designed to get kids active, while providing the opportunity to form a friendship with a university student.
“This is a program I had participated in, in my hometown during high school and I had wanted to start something like it here in Sackville for a few years,” says Cheeks. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
In its first summer the program had 10 participants, with five little buddies and five big buddies. In its second summer, the program doubled. This fall, in collaboration with Dana Mills, co-ordinator of the former Youth Mentorship Program on campus, and the Town of Sackville, Cheeks and Mills were able to extend the program into the school year and now there are 90 participants who meet once a week for an hour at the Salem Elementary School Gym.
“It has been so nice to be able to expand the program with this collaboration between Sackville and Mount Allison,” she says. “You need that access to resources and connections to make something like this successful."
Cheeks says that seeing the relationships that are formed with this program is what she values most about the experience.
“Seeing the difference it makes for both the big buddies and the little buddies really warms my heart,” she says. “I see the smiles on the kids’ faces and know what an important part of the week it is for the students as well. They have a bond with each other that will never be broken."
After spending the past two summers in Sackville, Cheeks says she definitely feels like a part of the Town and has been able to form important relationships along the way.
“It is so nice to be in a town that you are not from, but feel like you are,” she says.
Along with her summer job in Sackville, Cheeks also teaches children’s dance classes and has been highly involved in the Mount Allison community on the Orientation Committee, as Grad Class President, and as Social Chair of Windsor Hall in her second year. Throughout her years she has been involved with the MASSIE Program, the International Mentorship Program, volunteered with the S.M.I.L.E program, worked as a teaching assistant and peer tutor for calculus, and is currently a member of the Varsity Dance Team.
“The activities I have done at Mount Allison outside of my GPA are what define me,” she says. “It’s not achieving high grades, but the time that went to doing the things I love outside of class that matter the most to me.”
PHOTO CAPTIONS: Brooke Cheeks with her buddy, Audrey Hoeg.