by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER
Aurora -- A buddy bench isn't just for sitting outside. It has a much bigger purpose, according to Tami Mazzella, school counselor for Miller and Craddock elementary schools (pre-kindergarten to second grade).
The district will receive two benches -- one at Miller and one at Craddock -- that were donated by the Home Depot in Bainbridge Township.
"The buddy bench is to be used when a student doesn't have anyone to play with, wants someone to talk to or walk around with, or just needs a friend," said Mazzella, adding that students will be told it is for more than sitting. "It has a purpose."
The Marketplace at Four Corners Walmart donated a $50 gift card to the project "so we could purchase simple games like chalk, Chinese jump ropes, etc., to be kept near the benches for the students to utilize when looking for a friend on the bench," Mazzella said.
On May 20, there will be two schoolwide celebrations for staff and students that will include the unveiling of the benches and poems read by students who wrote them. Miller's assembly will be in the cafeteria at 9:30 a.m. and Craddock's will be in the gymnasium at 1:30 p.m.
The benches will be placed on the playgrounds at both building locations in spots easily accessible for all.
Mary Jane Jones, music teacher at Miller and Harmon schools, wrote the music and lyrics for a buddy bench song, while Donna Janoso, who works at Craddock and Harmon, taught the song to first- and second-grade students and coordinated the audio recording of them singing the song for a video that is being put together.
Superintendent Russ Bennett is enthused about the buddy benches.
"I commend Tami Mazzella for spearheading this initiative as I truly believe it's a great idea for students," Bennett said. "All children need to feel that they belong and are free from conflict.
"THIS PHYSICAL sign will help the process of working with students to create an even more sense of camaraderie than exists now. I know our staff and students will embrace this idea and make it a part of our positive culture."
Sal Arquilla, the district's director of facilities, maintenance and operations, has arranged to have the benches picked up, put together and sealed to protect them from the weather.
Mazzella said the project isn't costing the school any money. She said the staff members on a buddy bench team have met before school to work on the project.
The buddy bench team is comprised of staff members Patty Minrovic, principal for Miller and Craddock; Mazzella, Jannine Mason, Leigh Goff, Beth Bryant, Kim Kish, Katie McArthur and Lisa VanRaepenbusch.
Mazzella said the buddy bench idea came from an 8-year-old boy who is a student in York, Pa. A website link can be viewed at www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/second-grader-buddy-bench_n_4378248.html
"When I saw this story on the national news in the fall, I immediately asked [Minrovic] if we could do it for our elementary schools," Mazzella said.
Minrovic and Bennett agreed.
Mazzella said in a time "when more and more tragedies continue to occur which involve young people who say their motives stem from bullying or not being treated kindly, I believe teaching or empowering my young students with appropriate strategies and problem solving skills in the area of social interactions is more important than ever before."
"By implementing these buddy benches and teaching the students the reasons behind them, I am confident that we are doing the right thing for our students," she added.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC