Center Elementary is the sixth school to receive a special slab of wood.  It’s a Buddy Bench – meant to promote inclusion. 

“Making sure no student sits alone, no student is at recess alone,” explains Principal Chris Sullivan.  “They can go sit at the bench – other students know to look at the buddy bench and they can invite that student in to play with them.”

There’s more to this movement than meets the eye.  The benches are constructed by at-risk youth from Rushford Academy in Durham who are often on-hand for presentations. 

“I do the cutting.  They do the measuring and sanding of all the wood.  Then, we put the pieces together…it started just as busy work something to keep them focused,” says Residential Treatment Assistant Greg Sims, noting the project quickly grew to mean more.  “I look at this as a way they can give something back to somebody.”

The project is possible thanks to grants from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, also an organizer of the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities which includes a large rally every year. 

“We have enough money for every elementary school – and more – in Middlesex County which is so exciting,” says President and CEO Cynthia Clegg.  “It’s being kind, it’s being respectful, it’s how you treat people.”

“Our school is big about that – they have all that – kindness, empathy, all that stuff,” says 10-year-old Chelsea Ryan, who thinks the Buddy Bench is a great idea.  “I think it creates more chances for kids to get friends and get a role and stuff.”

There are plans for more than fifty Buddy Benches to be donates to schools around Middlesex County and beyond.