The Friend Zone

How one teacher’s idea, a bench and the support of a donor community brought friendship to Allisonville Elementary

buddy-bench-2A lone, solitary, blue bench sits on the edge of both playgrounds at Allisonville Elementary. Visit the school when no kids are around and one might think they are out of place. But to Pam Weiger, IB Coordinator and Media Specialist, the benches have become a haven for all students.

In an effort to expand the lessons of kindness beyond the school’s walls, Weiger brought the Buddy Bench idea to Allisonville in the hopes of bringing more students together. Students are encouraged to go to the bench when they need a play partner, and are encouraged to look for children sitting on the bench and invite them to play.

“Friends help us feel accepted, feel less lonely, and they help us develop and grow,” Weiger said.

There was only one problem: how to pay for them. With a cost of over $1,000, she posted the desired project on DonorsChoose.org. It was a funded in just two weeks. Thanks to a growing number of donors in the Donors Choose community, and a matching-gift grant from the Advancement Center, Weiger’s project was one of over 70 to be funded within Washington Township so far this year. The success of those other projects is empowering teachers like her to create more unique ideas to help students. In the case of the Buddy Benches, it is working!

“One time, I was on the Buddy Bench and I found a friend,” a student told her. “They were nice and kind to me. Thank you.”

“When I saw someone on the bench, I asked him if he wanted to play soccer and he said, ‘Sure!’” another recalled. “Now, he plays with us every day.”

As an extension to lessons learned from the BullySafe program already in place, being kind now is even cooler because of the benches. It was a small idea that has had big results.

As of the publishing of this article, over $16,000 of The Advancement Center’s $20,000 matching campaign on Donors Choose has been used. That’s over 60 teachers, and over 17,000 students impacted. It is generating tremendous excitement in the district. However, that money will soon run out. Help us increase this matching investment for 2017-18 by giving to the Annual Fund today!

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