By CHAZ PLAGER
There are two kinds of sibling relationships—ones where the siblings stick together like glue and stay friendly even towards adulthood, and ones where they don’t. Ideally, all siblings would treat each other like the former, but that just isn’t how it works. You can’t choose your siblings, after all.
Or can you?
At Palisades Charter High School, senior Heaven Martin presides over The Siblings Project, a community service-oriented program in which high schoolers take the role of big brothers or sisters to elementary school students who could use a mentor closer to their age.
PaliHi students are assigned a Palisades elementary school student in first through fifth grade. The high school students meet with their “little sibling” once a week.
“The Sibling Project founder, Kimiya Natan, came up with the program during COVID,” Martin said. “She thought about how lonely the pandemic was and wondered how kids were handling it. She wanted to create a program where children will be able to have an older sibling, a mentor or just a friend.”
The Siblings Project currently has 39 high school members, each assigned an elementary school student.
Of those students, several form the cabinet and take care of the bureaucratic tasks necessary to keep the program running smoothly.
Before becoming an older sibling, the student must fill out an application and then be interviewed by Cabinet members. After the interview process, students are notified if they have been selected for the program.
Afterwards the students undergo training, which includes proper communication, appropriate conduct and how to work with children. Students write, “We understand that parents are placing a certain level of trust within our program and therefore we go the extra mile.” The program advisor is Palisades High Principal Dr. Pamela Magee.
One of the Sibling Project members, senior Jacob Kermanikian, agreed to tell this writer about his experience.
Kermanikian is assigned to “R”, a third grader with high functioning autism. R’s parents are divorced, with his mother taking care of him on her own. When she heard about The Siblings Project, she thought it might be a good opportunity for R to have someone to connect to and guide him in creative passions. She signed R up.
R loves superheroes, drawing, and comic books. Kermanikian, an aspiring artist applying to the ArtCenter College of Design, is a perfect pick to be a “big brother.”
The two meet once a week for about two hours. R will typically tell his “older sibling” about school or something that interests him, and Kermanikian listens to him, plays with him and functions as a big brother.
“I think it’s great for kids who need someone to guide them at a young age,” said Kermanikian. “I have an older brother, so I know just how critical it is to have an older mentor to give advice and stuff when you need it.”
Martin will be leaving for college next year and plans to leave the program in the hands of one of her cabinet members.
“I really think we’re doing something great here,” she said. “It’s so vital that kids have someone they can turn to when they’re young. It can make all the difference.”
For more information on the program or to apply, please visit the site: https://sites.google.com/view/the-siblings-project/apply-now/pali-high-student-application?authuser=0