A dedication was held Thursday afternoon on William Perry Elementary School’s playground for not only a symbol but a physical reminder of the school’s dedication to stop bullying.
Donated by the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club, a “Buddy Bench” was installed.
“Hopefully, it will lead to new friendships,” said Sara Loker, a guidance counselor at William Perry Elementary School and the K Kids Club advisor, at the dedication.
Loker, third grade teacher Shami Pizarro, second grade teacher Christine George, and Christi Phillips worked with the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club to bring the Buddy Bench to the school’s playground.
This year was the first for the K Kids Club at William Perry Elementary. The club’s Kiwanis sponsor was Billie Quigley.
Loker said the K Kids Club’s 20 members in grades third through fifth took field trips during the academic year to Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry and made sandwiches, did crafts with residents at Summit Square in Waynesboro, rang bells for the Salvation Army at Christmas time and conducted a recycling program.
According to Loker, the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club provided guidance for K Kids to get started.
K Kids Club is a way to “get kids to focus on leadership and service in the community.”
“It was really a successful first year,” Loker said.
The bench gives students the opportunity to interact with their peers they would not normally have a chance with which to interact.
“It’s a visual representation of someone saying: ‘Hey, I’m feeling left out. I need someone to play with,’” Loker said.
William Perry Elementary Principal Tammy Hipes said the Kiwanis Club “supports us in a lot of different ways.”
Kiwanis supports Raising Resources for Readers (RRR), which enables the school to obtain books from the Green Valley Book Fair, and provides food bags at the end of the week.
“I think [the Buddy Bench is] a fantastic idea,” said Hipes. “It’s very much something I think the kids will participate in and use.”
Hipes said she has confidence that students at William Perry Elementary will go sit with a student they see sitting alone on the bench.
“I think it’s a great concept,” Hipes said.
The bench is also a wonderful way to teach students “how to step up to the plate and make new kids or kids who feel out of place feel part of the group.”
Bob Barrette, Waynesboro Kiwanis Club Secretary, said the K Kids Club members were asked to perform 2,500 service hours, then the Kiwanis Club would give them a special prize.
“And they met their goal,” said Barrette.
Loker said in the beginning of the academic year, the K Kids Club began to meet and set goals for achievement, and members said they wanted a Buddy Bench for the school’s playground.
“I think it’s a way of dealing with bullying in a proactive way by steering school leaders to take an active lead,” Barrette said of the bench.
Evelyn Moles, 10, is a member of K Kids and in 4th grade at William Perry Elementary.
Her grandfather, Mike Moles, is in Kiwanis, and encouraged Evelyn to join the elementary school chapter.
“I like it, because I get to help people,” said Evelyn, who would like to become a veterinarian when she grows up.
When K Kids Club was at WARM, Evelyn helped serve food, and she also helped out with the Kiwanis Club’s annual pancake breakfast fundraiser.
“I like it because if someone doesn’t have a friend, they can just go there [to the bench], and it gives them the opportunity to meet someone,” Evelyn said.