Mexico Bright Futures held an appreciation lunch Tuesday for people who are serving as lunch buddies in the schools.

Dr. Zach Templeton, Mexico School District Superintendent, thanked those attending. "We want to recognize you as people who volunteer time to make an impact on the life of a student," he said.

Three Missouri Military cadets, Carlos Liriano, Francisco Fletes and Donald Williams, told their lunch buddy success stories. The academy started out with five lunch buddies and now have 31. All three speakers, who are seniors, enjoy being a lunch buddy, even though they had doubts about it at first. The cadets are also getting rewards from being lunch buddies. "I never had anyone look up to me before," said Fletes. "It is special to have someone look up to you," he added.

Williams said his buddy reminds him of himself in looks and personality. Williams keeps in contact with his buddy's teacher to make sure he is on top of things. "I sometimes feel like a dad myself," he said with a smile.

Liriano wasn't sure he wanted to be a lunch buddy. He was hesitant. "I thought I would be terrible at it," he said. But now he said his buddy is like a little brother to him.

Following their speeches a slide show was presented showing all the cadet lunch buddies eating, playing, reading and talking to their buddies.

Tris Myers, who moved here two years ago, is an inspiration to anyone who is not sure if he or she would like to be a lunch buddy.

After Myers had lived her for a while, she wanted to volunteer. She went to the Chamber of Commerce office and asked Dana Keller if she had anything ideas. Keller immediately told her about the lunch buddy program. Myers said she told Keller "no thanks, that's not for me." She then heard Deb Haag talk at church about it. Myers decided to give it a try. "So I jumped in and jumped in with both feet," she said.

Now she will talk to anybody who will listen and tries to recruit volunteers as often as she can. "I believe in the lunch buddy program so much I recruit people," said Myers.

She told stories about children coming up to her and asking her to be their friend and even their adopted grandmother.

She said it doesn't cost anything to be a lunch buddy. "It takes a little time and a big heart," she said. "All the children want is a friend. They don't want a principle, or a teacher ... they want a friend," she said.

She told those attending she was glad they were involved with the program and should encourage others to be a volunteer as well.

Others speakers for the luncheon were Keller, Bright Futures Advisory Board Chairperson; Jo Ann Diffenderfer, Bright Futures Mexico Coordinator; Dr. Ayanna Shivers, Missouri Military Academy and Fran Robley, who introduced the cadets.