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High school senior behind effort to install ‘Buddy Benches’ at elementary campuses

March 8, 2018 GMT

A Lake Havasu High School senior aims to encourage friendliness one bench at a time.

Gabriella Jones began fundraising efforts two years to create and place a Buddy Bench at each public elementary school playground in Havasu.

The 18-year-old delivered a bench to Starline Elementary School a couple weeks ago and then to Nautilus Elementary School on Tuesday. Jamaica, Oro Grande, Havasupai and Smoketree elementary schools will follow in the coming weeks, she said.

“A Buddy Bench is a special bench for kids who are having a bad day, they don’t have anyone to play with, they sit on that bench and other kids are then encouraged, at first by teachers and such but then eventually by themselves, to go and be friends with whoever is sitting on that bench,” explained Jones. “It’s supposed to help promote friendliness, kindness and eliminate bullying on the playground.”

Jones said she raised a little over $1,000 for the project, $780 of which went toward paying a local company to construct the wooden benches. She plans to use the remainder of the funds for paint supplies so that each of the schools can customize their bench, and then donate whatever is left to a school’s art program, she said.

“I get the meaning of it, I’m really wanting to see how it’s going to work though. I’m a little skeptical on if people are really going to go sit on the bench to have someone come over and talk to them, but I’ve heard it works at some of the other schools,” said Roger Burger, principal at Nautilus.

Corey Triassi, the principal at Starline, said the school has not yet set out its bench because it’s waiting for the proper equipment to help secure it in place. She is hopeful that the concept behind the Buddy Bench will work.

“It’s just getting kids to realize that they’re part of the puzzle to reach out to the other kids who look sad and lonely and to kind of look out for kids that might be by themselves and say ‘hey would you like to sit on the buddy bench with me?’” she said.