In the Halls: Stamford High senior creates Buddy Benches for elementary school

Volunteers and Round Table staff members Sophia Unmpierrez, Anistyn Boshka, Sophia Negyesi and Brayden Davis assist with the Buddy Benches.

Volunteers and Round Table staff members Sophia Unmpierrez, Anistyn Boshka, Sophia Negyesi and Brayden Davis assist with the Buddy Benches.

Contributed / Contributed Photo

STAMFORD — Newest eagle scout member, Joe Nathanson, a senior at Stamford High School, has developed his own community-gathering project called “Buddy Benches.”

Nathanson’s spark for this idea stemmed from his own childhood fear of not being included by his peers. The “Buddy Benches” are Nathanson’s creation that act as “safe havens” for kids to seek playmates and socialize. The Stamford High School newspaper, “The Round Table,” spoke with Nathanson about his project.

What is the “Buddy Benches” project?

I will be constructing four benches for Newfield Elementary School. Two of those four benches will be named “Buddy Benches.”

Elementary school children use Buddy Benches to seek a playmate or invite others to join in on their activities. A Buddy Bench is a small safe haven. Children who are feeling emotional or lonely can sit on the bench as a clear signal to others on the playground that they are in need of social connection.

These two buddy benches are also marked to stand out from the normal bench.

These four benches were constructed around the elementary school campus to supplement the use of pre-existing benches that have become decrepit.

There are two playgrounds at Newfield Elementary; one buddy bench and one normal bench were placed at each playground.

How did you come up with this idea?

The principal of Newfield is a long time family friend of mine, Mrs. Lisa Saba-Price. I worked with her to configure a much needed project for her school, and she pointed me in the direction to build these buddy benches.

The benches around the elementary school campus are old, worn down, and decrepit. Installing new benches would not only gentrify the school’s environment, but also create a purpose, leading to making an impact.

What sparked your initial interest in this project?

In my eyes, there are not just benches. They are a safe haven for children that are feeling left out and unincluded.

As a kid, I grew up as an only child where the spotlight from my family was always on me and I would always get lots of attention. However, this affected my relationships with my friends and other people I’ve met along the way of life. As an only child, it becomes normal to be surrounded by attention and affection; this led me to have a fear of being left out, not included, or even not good enough. Growing up now, I have been able to grow out of that a little bit, but those natural feelings I grew up with still exist.

By building this project, I feel like not only am I giving back to my community, but I am also giving children, who are now in the shoes I once was, a chance to not feel what I felt growing up: being scared of feeling left out and lonesome. By doing this, I know I am giving a younger generation an opportunity to embrace who they really are without being scared of not being adequate enough.

What did you hope to achieve by creating these benches?

I am hoping to boost the self esteem and morale of children. Little kids can be very mean sometimes, and we don’t even know it.

Buddy Benches give children the space to feel safe, comfortable, included, and needed. Buddy Benches stand out from normal benches — we painted them blue and painted ‘buddy bench’ on them — and allow children to sit, play, or even make new friends without having the feeling of being left out, or not good enough. These are everyday real world problems that children have to face (we have all been there), when really kids should just focus on being kids and being happy.

I am hoping to make an impact on everyone and anyone who uses these benches, especially the students of Newfield.

Emily Sasser and Nicola Seager are students at Stamford High School.