J.W.Parker Middle School Adds Buddy Bench to Playground

EDINBORO, PA (December 22, 2015) – James W. Parker Middle School is the latest General McLane school to join the trend of preventing loneliness during recess.

Thanks to a $500 grant received from the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association (PSCA), the school was able to add a Buddy Bench to its playground.

James W. Parker Middle School new students Brianna Farley and Alexis Bartosek stand behind the newly installed Buddy Bench
James W. Parker Middle School new students Brianna Farley and Alexis Bartosek stand behind the newly installed Buddy Bench

According to Pennsylvania School Counselors Association executive director Judy Bookhamer, this is the first year that the Association offered its members a grant opportunity for the establishment of a Buddy Bench at an elementary or middle school as part of the Association’s advocacy initiative. James W. Parker Middle School was the recipient of one of the four grants, which were awarded across the Commonwealth.

“School counselors, as part of their school counseling programs, address the academic, career and social emotional development of students. The “Buddy Bench” supports the components of a safe and caring environment, and, when students feel safe and included, they are known to perform better in school,” Bookhamer said.

According to Middle School Counselor Mike Simmons, who spearheaded the project, the Buddy Bench adds to the variety of academic and social interventions that are already in place that help students overcome barriers and reach their potential.

“The Buddy Bench gives students a chance to reach out to others who might not have a friend, someone to play with or are in need of help,” he said. “But this also goes a step further and enhances the character education that we encourage with our students.”

The Buddy Bench is also intended to help students during the transition to middle school.

“One of the most significant aspects of change is social. Students at this level often experience difficulties negotiating student interactions, making new friends, peer mediations, etc. The Buddy Bench would be beneficial as a tool for those who are looking to make friends and for those who are looking to help others,“ Simmons said.

The project cost around six hundred dollars. In addition to the grant, the middle school staff raised money from a jeans day and an anonymous donor. Simmons will be adding a sign to the bench in the near future that highlights its purpose.

The bench will be a familiar setting for some of the middle school students as it will be the third Buddy Bench in the District. Edinboro Elementary School installed a Buddy Bench created by Edinboro Elementary faculty and students in 2014. The school has an additional Buddy Bench that will be installed near the playground. Edinboro Elementary’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) purchased the bench, and third and fourth graders in Mrs. Robertson’s classes painted it last year.

To learn more about General McLane School District, visit generalmclane.org.

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