Parenti’s High-Five Fridays start the school day off right

Parenti’s High-Five Fridays start the school day off right

Clayville Elementary School students excitedly accept high-fives before starting the school day.

SCITUATE – Not all heroes wear capes.

For Scituate elementary school students, their heroes wear Scituate High sports jerseys and show up on Fridays to dole out high-fives when the youths get off the bus.

Scituate High School Resource Officer Richard Parenti created the High-Five Friday program as a way bring students together while introducing elementary students to high school athletes.

It began last year when Parenti saw police officers in a Massachusetts town giving high-fives to elementary students. The Scituate Police Department, consisting of 17 officers from the chief down, had too few officers to make the time commitment.

The next best thing? Senior and junior athletes at the high school.

“I’m a big fan of not re-inventing the wheel,” said Parenti. After the first go, bringing the football team to Clayville Elementary School last September, other sports teams wanted in on the action.

“The high school students love it as much as the elementary kids, a program where it brings kids together,” Parenti said. “It’s something the high school kids will always remember. And the elementary students will always remember these god-like athletes.”

After the high-fives, high school and elementary students play during a five-minute recess before the start of the day. SHS Athletic Booster Club member Jen Pierce said it puts everyone involved in a good mood for the day. Her son, Max Pierce, a junior at SHS, plays soccer, basketball, and baseball at the school, and recently participated in a High-Five Friday.

“He said he had so much fun. It reminded him of being a kid again. Now that he’s going to be headed to college, so he’s going to be the little guy again, I think it was a good reminder for him,” Pierce said.

Clayville Elementary students love it so much that after the athletes hadn’t been there in over a month, they demanded another High-Five Friday from the principal.

“Can you imagine a kid with a lunch box coming up demanding high-fives?” said Parenti.

Courtney Francis, Clayville Elementary’s principal, said parents tell her that the students talk about the experience for days. She said the interaction gives students a sense of empowerment.

“It is truly the highlight of their week. The high school students are excellent role models – they greet the students with big smiles and warm demeanor,” she said. “More than anything, the SHS students show our young Spartans that the school community care about them.”

North Scituate Elementary School Principal Leanne Saravo echoed Francis, and said the program not only starts the day on a positive note, but also bridges relationships between elementary and secondary levels.

Dana Morel, Hope Elemetary School principal, said the younger students look up, literally and figuratively, to the High School athletes. They often say they want to return to Hope Elementary when they’re in high school to give out high-fives, she said.

“The high school students that attended Hope display such pride when they return to their alma mater,” Saravo said.

Parenti said he also wanted to build relationships between himself and the students when working in schools, but his primary objective is safety. Before heading over to the elementary school, he talks to the juniors and seniors about the importance of driving safely, and being a representative of the school. He uses the program as an opportunity to get to know students better, and to introduce himself to the SHS community.

“As they get older, the way they relate to police changes, I believe I have an impact on that now,” he said. “We don’t know what their preconception of a police officer is, but I can help change that to show they we want to help. I’m a person they can go to.”

Of course, he said, academics come first. Student athletes are generally smart, disciplined individuals who understand prioritizing schoolwork before the program.

Parenti said he’d “be overjoyed” to see other schools follow his lead and begin similar programs.

Scituate High School’s Varsity Baseball team welcomes Clayville Elementary students to greet them with high-fives.