Fifth-grade girls build idea into 'buddy bench' for kids to make friends

Girl Scout assignment becomes group project that will benefit many

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. - Isabella Trujillo remembers what it was like to be the new kid at school.

"It wasn't really like the best feeling ... so I feel good that other people have a way to make friends ... with this buddy bench." Trujillo said, about the idea she and other friends had in July.

"It feels good because I'm able to help people. For example, new kids, they don't know anyone, so they can sit there," 10-year-old Adrianna Spoerl said.

For these fifth-graders, the idea came to them as part of an assignment for their Girl Scouts group.

"They are actually taking a proactive stance and exhibiting their leader skills. They're putting their hearts out there because they want to help others," Melissa Nelson, the school counselor at Highlands Elementary School, said.

"We wanted to make a way for new kids -- or just kids that don't have a lot of friends -- to have friends," Trujillo said.

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So they went to a hardware store and bought all the materials to build the bench themselves. Within two days, the buddy bench was complete.

"Even if you have friends, you can go on it, or if you want, like, new friends, or if you want someone else to play with," said Emma Claus, another one of the girls who helped come up with the idea.

They decided to donate it to their school, Highlands Elementary, where it was placed in the playground area. 

The school believes the girls' thoughtfulness could help prevent bullying situations.

"Our youth today is incredible.They have voices. They speak up. So, I guess it was a nice surprise, but not unexpected that our students would initiate something like this," Nelson said.

They said the concept is to have a setting where everyone feels welcomed so they can create a bond. 

"It will grab the attention of other students to go up to them and initiate a conversation," Nelson said.

She said every week, the teachers at the school have group discussions in their classrooms to address situations of isolation and they talk about ways to welcome a new student. 

"I usually ask them their name and like, what favorite part of the school they like, and what they like to do at recess," Kayla Ramsey said.

"They don't really have to do anything big. They just have to go up and say, 'Hi,' and sometimes a friendship can just bloom like that," Claus said.

The school counselor suggests students break the ice by simply introducing themselves to a classmate who may seem shy or is struggling to make friends. 

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