After parents expressed concerns about the ‘grad slaves’ buddy program, students at Waterloo Collegiate Institute say they’re worried about its future.

The extra-curricular program auctions off Grade 12 students to Grade Nine students as a fundraiser for grad activities and to help make the transition to high school easier.

Older students tell CTV News that from the moment they finished the week-long program as Grade Nines, they couldn’t wait to be buddies themselves.

WCI Grade Nine student Mark Munro explains the process, “Your group decides a bid, our group bid $300. That’s the maximum price, so everyone spilt it, so we had to pay $37.50.”

And while some aren’t happy about the auction, or the use of the word ‘slave,’ seniors say they couldn’t wait to take part.

Grade 12 student Maggie DiGravio says “I don’t feel like we’re a slave at all to them. We are older, if something goes wrong we can say, ‘Guys we have to stop.’ We aren't a slave in any way.”

After one parent contacted CTV News to express concern about the program, students have been quick to defend it and highlight its merits on Twitter and via email.

Rhiannon Melvin created a Facebook page and @SaveWCIGradBuds Twitter account, as well as starting a petition to keep the program.

“I was kind of appalled people actually thought that…I think we should work to make it more clear that it’s buddy and not slave.”

The program isn’t unique to WCI. The school board says there are Grade Nine integration programs of some at every school.

Lila Read, superintendant of education for the Waterloo Region District School Board, says communication is key.

“What’s important to me is we know we have parent concerns that have come forward and student concerns that have come forward. We're going to review those, we take them very seriously and we’ll respond appropriately based on that.”

Students who love the program say those concerned should remember how intimidating it can be to go to a new school and learn more about it.

Aysun Osmansoy says “The Grade 12 grad buddies is really such an excellent way to show them around the school. The grad buddies take them from class to class, carrying their books.”

And she says while her own mother is very protective, “In this contract it also says you need to go meet the parents and they need to be comfortable with you before you can take [Grade Nine students] in your car.”

That’s just one of the rules laid out in a contract all students involved in the program need to sign, a contract that stresses everything in the program is voluntary.