HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Inspired by a story he saw on television, Hastings fourth-grader Ben Johnson took action to improve the quality of life in the schoolyard by suggesting a "buddy bench" be installed at his Hillside Elementary School.
“Ben spoke to me about the idea after seeing it on television and talking with his mom,” Hillside Principal Laura Sullivan said. “I thought it was a wonderful way to promote inclusion and make all students feel welcome and accepted.”
With support from the Hastings Special Education Parent Teacher Association and funds from Hillside Elementary School, two benches were purchased to be installed in the school’s front and back playgrounds.
According to young Ben, who enters the fifth grade in September, "a 'buddy bench' is a place where someone can sit when they have no one to play with at recess."
"You can sit on the bench and then a classmate will see you sitting there and ask you to play," Johnson said.
Young Ben's "buddy benches" were dedicated at Hillside Elementary School on Friday, June 20, and will officially be installed in September in time for the first recess of the new school year.
Sullivan announced at the dedication that one bench will be dedicated to Ben Johnson and will say, “Thank you, Ben Johnson, for bringing this fabulous idea to Hillside.” The second is will be dedicated to Stephanie Gould, the school psychologist who is retiring this year.
According to school officials, at the end of the ceremony as Ben sat on one of the benches, his classmates passed by saying, “Great idea,” “Thank you,” “Congrats, buddy” and “That was a really great idea.”