Student Spotlight: Felix and Bus Buddy Books

Meet Felix Hennigar, a third-grader at Shekou International School (Shenzhen, China) with a fantastic mission: to have older kids read to younger kids on every SIS school bus. While we could go on and on about why we love this program and how valuable this inter-grade service and care is, Felix shows it best! Here is his story in his own words, as presented to upper school students to invite them into the program:

“My name is Felix Hennigar. I moved to Shekou 4 years ago. The bus ride was not really fun as a little kid. I got into trouble a lot because I felt lonely and bored. All I could do was sit there. But there were older kids on the bus. I was in kindergarten and I felt like the older kids were big and cool and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to sit by them. I wanted to talk to them. Most of all, I wanted them to pay attention to me.

Then I moved to Bus #2 where I met Rose and Scarlet, the Burns twins. They were two Pre-K kids at SIS who hated the bus. Half way through the year, I started reading to them. It made me feel good to be helping others. I read Geronimo Stilton and the Curse of the Cheese Pyramid to them. They started to love the bus ride and I remember every time they came on the bus, they were like, “Where’s Felix?” I was like, “I’m over here!” It made me feel warm and happy to be helping others. Then, last year they moved away….

This year I tried to get a project started on the bus based on reading to the Burns twins. I call it Bus Buddy Books. I want to get older kids reading to younger kids on every bus so that the younger kids can enjoy the bus more than before. So far, we have books on my bus and big kids are reading to little kids. I want the project to expand to every bus, I know I wouldn’t be able to do this by myself. So, I talked to grade 1 about my idea. Grade 1 brainstormed what they could do to help me.

They decided they could use the quilts they made to fund Bus Buddy Books. They raffled the quilts and used the money to buy books for all of the buses. I am here today to ask you to help Bus Buddy Books expand to every bus. It’s going to take all of you reading on the bus to make the Bus Buddy Books a success. It’ll help improve the community at SIS because younger kids can get to know all the older kids and make the community feel like a family. That’s what SIS says it is, a big family. Don’t just take my word for it. You know it’s the right thing to do. Thank you.”

This month, first-graders officially launched Bus Buddy Books, and Felix continues to present to other grade levels and draw in more participation. We are so inspired by Felix’s drive to build community through such a fun, thoughtful, and giving way, from his talk at the February 23 [email protected] event (x=independently organized), to his continuing presentations and calls for volunteers across grade levels. Bus Buddy Books isn’t a solo effort; when we reached out to spotlight Felix’s story, his parents Peter and Ria Hennigar also shared their thanks to those who have been crucial to the journey:

“There are a few key teachers who stepped in to help mentor Felix and make his idea successful. It takes a village to help raise children and our village at SIS was an important factor. Lisa Krebs (Grade 1 teacher at SIS) has been an amazing supporter and mentor for Felix since he gave his TEDx Talk. She has been amazing at helping bring out Felix’s ideas and then do the back end work to help make them come to fruition. She has emailed repeatedly and asked for his opinion, scheduled planning meetings with him, and organized opportunities for him to speak to others and to support for his project- its been an amazing piece of work by a talented educator. Gaylene Livingston (SIS Librarian) worked to gather a first box of books so that Felix could try his idea out on his Bus. Dave Shepherd and Tosca Killoran also put in hours of time to help prepare the kids for TEDxYouth Jingshan. This talk really helped gain traction for the Bus Buddy Books project.”

We’re grateful for educators like Lisa, Gaylene, Tosca, and Dave! We also learned that after the fundraising to purchase the books and book containers for the buses, Lisa found they had raised more than they needed. Grade 1 students asked that the funds not used for the Bus Buddy Book initiative be given to a migrant school in Shenzhen to help local student with little means to purchase books for their after school programs. SIS donated the money to the “4:30” migrant school, aptly named because that is the time when the migrant children visit that school where they remain from 4:30 until 6:30pm while their parents work in the factories. This is a story that just keeps giving and passing on the joy. We’re looking forward hearing more updates about the service and reading happening in this community! 

Watch Felix’s fantastic TEDx presentation on service and Bus Buddy Books:

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