Buddy Bench helps students make friends at Crestmore Elementary

Photo CJUSD: Armando Murillo, 8; Luiza Ramirez, 8; Elementary Counselor Angelica Martinez; Briana Rivera, 11; teacher Vicky Nitch; and Instructional Assistant Ralinda Jones.

On a sunny Monday morning, children are playing on the Crestmore Elementary School playground, when a little girl holding a basketball sits down on a big yellow bench. She looks a little sad and lonely, but in just a few minutes, two other little girls cheerily come up to her to ask her to play and soon everyone is all smiles.

That’s the magic of Crestmore Elementary School’s new Buddy Bench. Students who might be in need of a friend simply sit down on the bench and other children know to come up and see if they can be that friend.

Even though the bench has only been in existence for a few weeks, it’s already making a difference for the students in need of a friend, as well as those who step up to help, noted Elementary Counselor Angelica Martinez.

“They’re aware of the power they have to lift somebody up,” she said.

Second grade teacher Vicky Nitch brought up the idea for the Buddy Bench up at a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) meeting last year.

“I had heard about them in other places,” Nitch said. She liked the idea of having a place where students could go and express their need for friendship in a non-verbal way. It sometimes might be hard for a student to go up to another and ask to play, she said, especially for new students.

Team members worked together to make the bench happen, painting an existing bench a bright cheery yellow and emblazoning the bench with lettering that reads “Buddy Bench” in English and Spanish.

Eight-year-old Luiza Ramirez said she has seen many students on the bench and thinks it is a good idea.

“I think the bench is a great representation of sharing friendship,” added 11-year-old Briana Rivera. “It’s not fun to be alone.”

Briana said her peers are often so busy playing at recess they might not notice someone is in need. The bench helps them see the need, she said.

Martinez said the bench has brought out the amazing qualities that have always been inside Crestmore students.

“They have so much goodness and kindness,” she said. “You just have to plant the seed and it’s going to grow.” “It’s making a positive and caring culture,” she added.