With two younger brothers, Colorado Academy alumna Anna Schwartz always lamented not having a younger sister. That was until she got one her senior year: Coco Ardell, her Kindergarten Buddy. 

According to Coco’s mother, Carla Ardell, the feeling is more than mutual. “Anna has done an absolutely remarkable job providing Coco with a great example of a young lady. The two definitely have a sister connection.” 

Anna and Coco met four years ago at Colorado Academy in the Senior-Kindergarten Buddy program when Coco, now a fourth grader, was in Kindergarten, and Anna was a senior. A decades-old tradition, the program matches Seniors with Kindergarten buddies. Throughout the year the students meet for special events like playing in the park, reading in the library, or exchanging gifts during the holidays. But when the school year was over, Anna and Coco’s relationship continued to flourish. 

“She is like my sister,” says Coco. “She makes time for me, and when we’re together, she listens to me and is interested in what I’m saying.  She makes me feel like I’m so important.” 

After meeting Coco’s parents, Anna decided to stay in touch, even after moving to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Texas Christian University. While pursuing a degree in Coordinated Dietetics, which prepares students to become Registered Dietitians, Anna kept up with Coco, making it a priority to meet about every six months.  

“They would talk about homework and college, and Anna would always stress how important it is to stay on top of your work,” says Carla Ardell. “As a fourth grader, that has really resonated with Coco. I see her jump on her work and I know it’s because of Anna.” 

Like many great leaders, Anna also led by example. 

“I wanted to teach Coco that relationships are so special and important in life, and putting in the effort to keep them going is very beneficial. These relationships add an extra support system when you need someone,” says Anna. 

It seems Coco learned that lesson, as she and her mother carved out the time to attend Anna’s graduation from TCU in May.  

“It’s so special that Coco and her family were able to come to my graduation in Texas. To have them see me walk across two stages – CA’s and TCU’s – is just incredible,” says Anna. 

As for the program that introduced these “sisters,” Anna says it’s absolutely worthwhile.  

 “The Senior-Kindergarten Buddy program creates bonds with the youngest and oldest students at CA. I know that Coco and I are a unique case from the program, and not everyone in my class had the same experience that I did, but it’s amazing to see how it has become such a benefit to both of us.” 

As for the future, among her many hopes for Coco, Anna shares this one: “I hope that when she becomes a Senior, she enjoys being a part of this program as much as I did.”