REISTERSTOWN, Md. - Brooke Webber and Azure Crossley have a lot in common.
They love sports and playing the card game Uno. Crossley likes to watch Webber play ice hockey and Webber will cheer on Crossley during soccer games. It doesn't bother either that there's more than a 10 year age gap between them.
It's seems like an unlikely friendship, but it's the kind of relationship being fostered weekly between Stevenson University athletes and students at Chatsworth School in Reisterstown. It's a mentorship program where athletes are paired with one or several students and visit them during the school day once or twice a week.
"It's really helping them form relationships, build confidence and even pay closer attention to their school work," said Kelly O'Connell, vice principal at Chatsworth.
The program became a bigger success than anyone at Stevenson or Chatsworth had predicted. At the start, about a half-dozen students had volunteered to be part of it. Then, 20 of them signed up for the orientation. The big surprise came when 39 showed up.
"We only had 20 seats so some had to sit on the floor," said O'Connell. "It's really incredible that they're all donating their time in their busy college life to come in and make a difference in the lives of our children here at Chatsworth."
Stevenson men's soccer coach John Plevyak helped coordinate the program on the university's end. He's like a proud dad when he sees his athletes interacting with the children.
"There’s just a great relationship, a friendship," he said. "It’s really heartwarming and speaks volumes to the type of student athlete which we attract at Stevenson."
Webber knows it might seem odd to some that she's befriended a fourth grader. But with four older brothers, Webber sees Crossley as the little sister she never had.
"You actually get emotional. You’re friends with these kids, regardless of the age gap, they’re your buddies," she said.
That's an experience Webber and her peers will never get from a college textbook.