The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas


St. Mark's School of Texas
10600 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75230
The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas


The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas


Seniors and buddies to visit Dallas Zoo May 20

Senior class sponsor Bryan Boucher explains the value of the longstanding tradition of seniors visiting the Dallas Zoo with their senior buddies, while 12-year Marksman Preston Ghafar recounts his own experience visiting zoo as a first-grader.

It’s been 12 years since senior Preston Ghafar went to the Dallas Zoo with his senior buddy. 12 years since his senior buddy bought him a blue snake plushie from the gift shop. And 12 years since his grandmother, terrified by the stuffed animal, threw it in the trash.

On May 20, nearly 12 years later, Ghafar will find himself back at the Dallas Zoo for the annual senior and first grader zoo trip. Held every year since before Ghafar can remember, the trip is a school tradition that will continue long after he is gone.

But for many, the trip is more than just a tradition. The trip isn’t just another random excursion on a humid May afternoon done for the sake of tradition; instead, it’s the last chance for first-graders and seniors to connect with and say goodbye to their buddies before they leave.

“The one thing I remember with my senior buddy was that zoo trip with him,” Ghafar said. “This year has been something special. You used to be that buddy that went on (a senior’s) shoulders, but now you’re the one carrying him.”

Having first-hand experience, Head of Lower School Marion Glorioso-Kirby understands the importance of the senior buddy program, and she believes that its value stretches beyond just St. Mark’s.

“I’ve got two Lower School boys myself, and their relationship with their senior buddy matters so much,” Glorioso-Kirby said. “It helps (the lower schoolers) feel like they’ve got a friend who they can not only look up to but can also trust, and (the seniors) get a lot out of having a connection with someone younger. That’s a life skill for a senior, and it’s a relationship that matters for both the little guy and the big guy.”

Moreover, senior class sponsor Bryan Boucher believes that the close relationships enables the seniors to leave a legacy that will last long after they’re gone.

“This is that opportunity for the seniors to really have a tangible effect on someone that’s going to be here for a long time,” Boucher said. “You can talk to many seniors who have been here since first grade, and they can tell you who their senior buddy was when they were in the first grade twelve years ago so that clearly had some impact on them.”

Seniors often go out of their way to spend time with their little buddies and make an effort to connect with them during their busy schedules, a notion that Boucher believes highlights the unique connection that is formed.

“These seniors have been really excited to see and engage in activities with their lower school buddies, which doesn’t happen every year,” Boucher said. “We’ve had a lot of seniors this year that have individually spent time with the lower school buddies, and that means the world to a second grader. I’ll watch the seniors interact with their lower buddies and talk to them after, and they’ll have a great, big smile on their face. I think it’s a really important part of being a blue shirt, regardless of whether you went to Lower School here.”

Ghafar has spent a portion of his hard-to-find downtime with his little buddy, and he’s come to find that his little buddy has become more than just another kid at St. Mark’s: he’s become like family.

“We made the trip to go see (my buddy’s) championship baseball game,” Ghafar said. “Even though they lost, we were just glad to be there with them and cheer them on, and you could just see their faces smile. He feels like a little brother, and it just felt like the right thing to do — to be there for him and cheer him on.”

Boucher believes that through engaging with and caring for a Lower School buddy, seniors learn what it’s like to truly embody manhood, a virtue that’s often praised at St. Mark’s.

“When seniors can’t be at an event, the level that they’ll go to to make sure their buddy is cared for is really great to see,” Boucher said. “The line we often say around here is that boys are cared for and men care for others, and that’s a great example of boys becoming men.”

In what will seem like an instant, Ghafar, along with his 95 peers who make up the class of 2024, will hang up their blue shirts in exchange for white tuxedos for Commencement.

And, although they may no longer play football on the quad or lead pep rallies, they will live on through those they cared about and those they led as good men.

“It’s a whole brotherhood here,” Ghafar said. “Twelve years seems like so long ago, but it feels like yesterday. My time here is almost over, so being able to pass on a little experience to (my buddy) and help him on his way makes me feel good.”

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