Two Ochoco Elementary students created a buddy bench for students to go when they are having a bad day

by: KEVIN SPERL - Ivy Cater and Jade Henry sit at the buddy bench they designed for the school playground.

The sign on the outside wall of Ochoco Elementary proclaims: "Be respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe."

Fifth-grade students Ivy Cater and Jade Henry could very well add the words "Be compassionate."

The two friends came to Principal Dave Robinson with the idea of building a "buddy bench" for the school's playground as a safe place for kids having a bad day.

"We first thought of building a bench, but we couldn't figure out how to get the wood to do so," said Henry. "We decided to grab one of the picnic tables out in the play yard and paint it."

Their teacher, Grace Deboodt, wasn't at all surprised that her two students came up with the idea.

"These two thought about this for months," she said. "They are both so compassionate and thoughtful."

Deboodt said the pair realized there are kids that are lonely or sad at school and maybe needed a place to feel safe.

"They felt that there might be another lonely kid or someone else who is sad," said Deboodt, "So, they came up with this buddy bench to be a safe place for them."

"Many kids have nothing to do at recess," explained Henry. "So we wanted this to be a place where kids can meet and have fun."

With the help of the school's Building Engineer Elvie Gaskey, who supplied the girls with paint, the project began.

"Our idea was to have a place for doing art on the table," explained Cater, "We also wanted to place it near a grassy area so kids could play games."

The bench was revealed at a school morning assembly and placed outside on Tuesday afternoon.

The pair plans to actively manage the bench, taking turns hosting art and game activities during recess.

Henry's thoughts are already turning towards designing shirts with student's names on them to make it easier to make friends. And, let the school be warned, she has her eyes on doing another table.

As an educator, Deboodt sees teacher potential in others when she sees it, but not always at such a young age.

"These two are natural teachers. They are always asking what they can do to help," she said. "They are the kind of grownups that we need in the schools."

The kind of young grownups that made Deboodt pause, asking herself why she, or other teachers, never thought of the idea of a buddy bench.

The design of the bench definitely invites visitors. Bright colors, a smiley face and a large heart greets those who choose to sit at the bench. The pair hopes that the bench becomes a place where kids that are having a bad day can work things out together, instead of being alone.

And maybe become good friends, like Cater and Henry.

"Ivy is my very best friend," said Henry. "I rely on her. She doesn't just think about herself, she thinks a lot of others."

The same could be said of Henry.

"We hope this bench makes kids happy," said Henry.

"And helps kids make new friends," added Cater.

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