Buddy Benches Add Warmth to CES

Sitting together on Calais Elementary School’s new Buddy Bench are Sam M. and Khloe M. The fifth- and fourth-graders, respectively, are good friends. “We play together every day,” Khloe said. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

Along with the school system’s active efforts in improving and supporting a safe and welcoming environment in which all students and staff can blossom, past and present members of the community are collaborating to do their part. One such example is the newly installed Buddy Bench at Calais Elementary School [CES].

Situated just outside the cafeteria in the hallway, the Buddy Bench is but one specimen of a large-scale project currently underway by Norman Ross. Ross, a former community member now living in Alabama, has built dozens of Buddy Benches – including at least one for every school in his county, and some for the neighboring schools in Tennessee. To build the benches, he has partnered with students from the area’s vocational school, the Allen Thornton Career Technical Center, and the Florence Exchange Club.

The concept behind the Buddy Benches is that whenever a child is feeling sad or in need of companionship, they can sit on the bench. Seeing the unspoken request of their schoolmate, other students or staff can then join them on the bench to alleviate their loneliness. Buddy Benches were first conceived by Christian Bucks while he was in the second grade in York, Pennsylvania, and they have been appearing in fortunate schools around the nation.

Since Buddy Benches improve the psychological well-being of the children that utilize and share in them, they also improve their learning ability. “You know as well as I do if you have a friend, you are happier,” Ross previously shared with Lauderdale County’s WAFF-48.

“A happier child makes better students and better students learn more, so it’s very beneficial to the system.”

A 1953 graduate of Calais Memorial High School, Norman has never strayed from home in his heart, brother Carl explains. “He’s always wanted to give back to the area,” he said.

 

With Norman living in Alabama, Carl has taken up the project locally to help it spread. Norman constructed a bench specifically for CES and transported it himself, while Carl built his own version. One bench is currently in place inside, and the other will be either installed outside or gifted to another school in the area, in keeping with the project’s mission of spreading kindness and compassion for others.