Too often, a kid is alone at lunch, bullied in a classroom, or alone at recess. Grant Knight, junior at Weber High, and his friends are trying to change that. Their solution: Buddy Benches.
“My team and I hope that we will be able to make a positive impact to help elementary school students learn how to include others and make friends,” Knight explains. The idea is that a bench can be placed outside at recess where a student may sit if they don’t feel included, feel low for the day, or are just alone. Other students will see this bench, and the person on it, and respond in the loving, caring ways that children do. Knight continues, “This bench gives those who are hesitant to make new friends or get involved a means by which they can be noticed. We hope that by instilling the importance of inclusion in children while they are young will make a great change for good in our community.”
Knight first thought of this idea as his Eagle Scout Project as he met with Mrs. Gilstrap, principal of Green Acres Elementary. Together, the idea was born and carried out as Knight collected enough donations from neighbors and community members to get two Buddy Benches for Green Acres. After seeing the difference the benches made, and hearing the many success stories, Knight knew he needed to branch out further.
Knight is an active member of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), serving as Vice President of the Weber High Chapter. One of the events involved in FBLA is community service, which Knight and Co. saw the Buddy Benches being perfect for. Since the project needed more funding, the team decided to branch out and connect with businesses, which would also help them compete in the Partnership with Business chapter event. Weber High’s FBLA team took first in the Northern Region for the second year in a row and will compete at the state level in March. In March, Knight will also present his Buddy Bench project.
“We have set the goal to partner with enough businesses to purchase eleven Buddy Benches,” Knight says. The group still needs about $400 more to reach their goal of $5,600, which would supply eleven benches for the six elementary schools that feed into Weber High.
Knight realizes that mental health and suicide rates are high in the North Ogden community, which is why he started the project. If we can stamp out bullying at a young age, he thought, bullying and fitting in and suicide can be non-issues at Weber High later down the road. Everyone needs a friend, he believes, and this is a start toward inclusion, acceptance, and friendship.
“This is meaningful to me because I can see the difference it’s making in kids’ lives. There are cases where kids are running up to me and giving me a hug because they are so excited about it and wanting to know when the Buddy Bench is going to be finished so they can start making friends and being friends,” Knight said.
> If you would like to donate to the Buddy Bench project, share your success stories, or be a part of this project in the future, please contact Grant Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org.