October was Bullying Awareness Month and the Children’s Coalition wanted to make a statement that would transcend beyond just the month of October; so the idea of buddy benches was created and implemented at Minnie Ruffin Elementary School in Monroe.
It all began with a regional curriculum called Al’s Pals, “This curriculum teaches students about being resilient, how to cope in uncomfortable situations and how to just stop and make heathy choices instead of being reactive,” says Early Childhood Coordinator of Children’s Coalition Tammy Washington.
Annually the Children’s Coalition partners with local schools for a campaign against bullying. However, this year it wanted to make an impact that would go beyond just one day says Washington, “This year we thought we’d do something a little different with the bullying campaign. We wanted something more tangible that lasts and that is a constant reminder.”
This is how the buddy bench was created. “The buddy bench is here for any child that may be having a rough day or may just need someone to talk to, to sit here and have someone else come up and say something as simple as, do you want to be my best friend?”
“The buddy bench is for friends and you sit on the buddy bench and you’ll say I don’t have no friends and then they’ll say you want to be my friend — You will have wonderful choices and you will have friends forever,” says students Honesty Smith and Kaelynn Freeman.
Tammy Washington says the idea is for children to be kind to others intentionally, “We want our children to grow up to be good upstanding citizens and to be more resilient because life is going to throw obstacles their way but we want them to be able to overcome those obstacles and still be able to make safe and healthy decisions and be successful.”
If you’re interested in sponsoring a buddy bench contact your local Ouachita Parish school to find out how to be a part of the movement. Buddy benches are a national phenomenon but Minnie Ruffin Elementary was the first in the area to implement the idea.
There is vast interest from other schools in Ouachita Parish to get buddy benches but unfortunately funding is currently the biggest hurdle.