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‘Buddy Bench’ comes to Ellsworth Elementary School

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 7:58 AM EDT
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - A second grader at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School took it upon herself to bring a very special piece of equipment to the playground this month, but it’s not a new swing or a slide.

It’s called the Buddy Bench, and it sits at the school’s playground at the request of Emilina Rae, who wanted more inclusion at her school after being bullied since kindergarten.

“At my last school, I was bullied because I had to go to speech class because I couldn’t really speak that well,” she said. “They pulled my hair. They cut me in line. Like, all that stuff. I don’t want nobody else to, like, feel what I felt.”

The Buddy Bench in Ellsworth isn’t the only one of its kind. There are five more just like this one at area schools across eastern Maine. They serve a far greater purpose than just a place to sit at recess.

“This is a bench to help the bully-er and the bully-ee’” said Skyla Libby, the founder of Buddy Benches for Main. “If you’re feeling upset or unincluded, you go sit on the bench, and that’s when all of the children on the playground go talk to them, ask them what’s wrong, if they can play with them. And its really a tool for teachers as well to see who’s struggling on the playground and who may need a little extra help making friends.”

Emilina has now graduated from speech class, and to those who know her, it’s no surprise she led the charge to bring a Buddy Bench to Ellsworth.

“I am beyond proud,” her mom Sasha said. “She just became a wonderful role model to other girls with speech insecurities and impediments. She’s really overcome a lot.”

And Emilina has some simple advice to kids who may be going through the same things she did.

“Just speak up and use kindness.”

Skyla’s Buddy Benches already has nine more schools getting benches this coming school year, and is taking applicants for more.

To apply for a buddy bench for your school through the program offered by Crossroads, visit crowncares.org.

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