Siddiqui, a rising high school senior from Elizabethtown, is one of a dozen Governors Scholars from Centre College working in conjunction with the Danville school system's summer feeding program.
Danville school system provides lunches at several locations
Heather Hills Apartments is one of several locations where the school system is offering free lunches to anyone 18 years or younger. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Governor's Scholars also come to play with the children.
On this particular Thursday afternoon, Margie Dievert, cafeteria manager at Danville High School, and Debbie Bottom, Toliver Elementary's cafeteria manager, are quite busy. Just as soon as they can prepare a tray for a child, yet another pops up in the line at the back of their van to be served.
"It's such a rewarding experience to be able to provide a lunch for these children," says Dievert, handing out a strawberry snack to a child.
Dievert says the meals are part of the National School Lunch Program. She estimates cafeteria workers from Danville schools prepare 450-500 meals each day, and the program reaches beyond Danville schools and neighborhoods. Workers prepare meals for athletic events at Millennium Park and for the YMCA in Harrodsburg.
The workers usually cook meals in the school kitchens, but once a month, the children are treated to pizza.
Bottom says the idea is to not only feed the children but teach proper eating habits.
"We try to serve a very good combination and do our best to try to keep the sugar content down and the nutritional value up. Parents have been surprised by just how good our lunches have been," she says.
According to Dievert, the program is now in its 16th year and keeps growing.
"Food really is our lives," she says. "Children are hungry in the summer just like in the school year. We see a lot of hunger that most people don't, and we recognize many parents may have difficulty providing a lunch for their children during the summer. So anything we can do, we're more than happy to do so."
John Wilcox, a Governor's Scholar faculty member, is one of those responsible for bringing the Governor's Scholars to interact with the children.
Governor's Scholars started working with children eight summers ago
"The idea is to give the children someone to look up to," says Wilcox. Governor's Scholars have been working with Danville schools for last eight summers.
"Hopefully, looking at the GSP students will give the children the idea to take school more seriously and someday go to college just like they will."
The Governor's Scholars are here to assist the children in going above and beyond their expectations. The benefits are somewhat mutual, too, says Wilcox.
"I think it's good for a lot of the GSP students to get an idea of students from a less-advantaged background, and they can observe the difference in their upbringings," says Wilcox.
Jason, hands still firmly gripping the bat, says he looks forward to the Tuesdays and Thursdays when Siddiqui and other GSP students come to visit.
"It's a lot of fun just playing games. I like just doing that," he says.
Siddiqui, relishing his role-model status, sees aspects of himself in the children.
"When I was a kid, I was all about sports, and that's definitely in some of the kids here. And like them, I always wanted to play with the older kids when I was their age.
"It's really fun for both of us. The kids look up to us, and it's kind of cool," Siddiqui says.