By LorettaRodgers

It’s much better to be a buddy than a bully.

That was the message communicated at a recent Chichester School Board meeting when a decorated “Buddy Bench” was introduced to the community.

Chichester resident Dan Hill, who has grandchildren attending Chichester schools, first approached the Chichester Education Foundation about the benches, which are designed to encourage inclusiveness.

The idea was accepted and encouraged, and now, every elementary school in the Chichester School District will design and receive its own Buddy Bench.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathy Sherman said the district’s Industrial Arts Department was contacted and the first bench, which now sits in the vestibule of Hilltop Elementary School, was designed and constructed.

“The Buddy Bench is a great idea,” Sherman said. “Because of the involvement of our art teachers, guidance counselors, Industrial Arts Department and our students, the cost is approximately one-fourth of what it would have been.”

The brainchild of York, PA student, Christian Bucks, the concept of the Buddy Bench is very simply, inclusion. In second grade at the time, Bucks noticed that some of his classmates appeared to be lonely, so he thought installing a bench on the playground would encourage interaction.

During an interview, he told his hometown newspaper that the Buddy Bench would “grow a dream circle of friends.”

Hilltop Elementary Principal Christine Matijasich said teachers and students decorated the tiles and the fingerprint of every member of the Hilltop School community appears on the bench.

“The Buddy Bench was a school-wide project that all students and staff took ownership of and participated in the design,” Matijasich said.  “Everyone has truly put their mark on the bench. It has been a great experience for our school.”

Hilltop fourth grade pupils Sophia Pezzotti, Brian Parkinson, Ryan Bartholf, Chloe Hally and Jalyn Tidwell were at the school board meeting to relay their impressions of the bench.

In a presentation, the students explained that a child feeling nervous or lonely sits on the bench and another school mate comes over to say hello.

“I think this is a great idea,.” Tidwell said. “The bench helps to include kids who might feel left out.”

Sherman said she is very grateful to Hill for bringing the idea to the district, adding that benches will be installed at Boothwyn, Linwood, and Marcus Hook Elementary schools in the near future.

A Buddy Bench was installed at a school in the Upper Darby School District last year.

Hilltop Elementary students Ryan Bartholf, Sophia Pezzotti, Brian Parkinson, Chloe Hally and Jalyn Tidwell pose with their school's new buddy bench.

Hilltop Elementary students Ryan Bartholf, Sophia Pezzotti, Brian Parkinson, Chloe Hally and Jalyn Tidwell pose with their school’s new buddy bench.

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