Henry County Schools Launches Buddy Benches Program with Ribbon-Cutting
Buddy Benches are high-quality outdoor benches placed in the recess area of school campuses that are identifiable by their uniform color and unique design. Mental Health and Wellness Facilitators, stationed at every school across the district, will lead training about the purpose and use of benches.
“Our Board of Education has been clearly committed to ensuring positive school climates and every student feeling valued,” said Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis. “Installing Buddy Benches as a resource at each of our elementary schools is another innovative way to showcase the vital importance of building positive relationships and student friendships in schools across Henry County.”
Although Buddy Benches are a small part of a much larger system of wellness and support structures fostered by the Board of Education through its Community-Inspired Strategic Plan, Timber Ridge Elementary second-grader Kacie Barnett thinks the benches can make a big impact in the lives of kids.
“I think the Buddy Benches could really change someone’s day here at Timber Ridge and all the other elementary schools in Henry County,” Barnett said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 16. “Here are three reasons how: someone who might be struggling with a friend, someone who is having a hard day and wants to play, or someone who is new to TRE and does not have a friend yet.”
In addition to training teachers regarding the purpose of Buddy Benches, the district’s Mental Health and Wellness Facilitators will train students from each classroom to be wellness ambassadors for new students, students who are shy, feeling left out, or lonely.Teachers will offer further support to their classrooms on how to be positiverole models for one other, build relationships, and to use the Buddy Benches.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our Mental Health and Wellness Facilitator, Kelci Sorensen, to support usage of the Buddy Benches,” added Principal Dr. Kristen McRae. “We don’t want any of our students to ever feel as if they don’t have a friend here at Timber Ridge Elementary School or at any elementary school across the district.”
“One of my friends was a new student here and sat on the Buddy Bench,” she said. “He now joins in a game every day with his new friend that he met from sitting on our Buddy Bench.”
Buddy Benches allow space for kids who don’t have anyone to play with or talk to during recess, which is an important opportunity for elementary students to socialize with their peers. Once a student sits on the Buddy Bench, teachers aid in facilitating interaction with a buddy, one of several student wellness ambassadors, like Barnett, whose mission is to make sure their peers have a friend every day.
“The Buddy Bench is a systematic district response to ensure we help all elementary students avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation at school,” said Executive Director of Family Services Dr. Creseda Hawk.“
Many kids do not have the social skills to build and engage new friendships, and a majority of young learners have anxiety around not having friends at school,” added Director of Student Services Fredric Latschar. “Our Buddy Benches and student wellness ambassadors will help to alleviate the anxiety and pressures of students not having someone with whom they can connect.”
View the event photo album here.
About Henry County Schools
Henry County Schools (HCS) is the eighth-largest school district in Georgia, consisting of 52 schools, including two academies, located about 20 minutes south of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Over the past 20 years, our community has grown in population from 113,000 residents to over 244,000 residents. Since 1999, student enrollment has grown from 21,000 students to 43,000 students, and our number of employees has grown from 3,000 to 6,000.
HCS is “In Pursuit of Exceptional,” taking action to advance opportunities, access, and outcomes so that every student in our school district has Exceptional Support, Exceptional Access, and an Exceptional Future. In 2020, our Board of Education adopted our 2021-2026 Community-Inspired Strategic Plan and laid out a clear vision and mission for Henry County Schools. Our vision is to ensure a high-quality, world-class education for every student, and our mission is to empower all students with exceptional opportunities and access that lead to success in a global society.