Contributed photo
Dawnelle DeSautel, school age care coordinator; Colter Hendrickx, a first-grader in Ms. Von Ruden’s class; and Harley Wurst, paraprofessional, sitting on the new Buddy Bench installed in the New York Mills elementary school. 

Buddy Bench unveiled at New York Mills Elementary School

By Jennifer Grasswick


If you have a child, or know of a child, attending the New York Mills Elementary School that is lonely and looking for a friend to play with on the playground, or to make new friends, there is a new tool available to help the children. The tool is called a Buddy Bench.

The bench is beneficial for children new to the elementary school who want to make friends, or for children who have friends but would like to make new friends. The bench is also helpful if your child’s friend is not at school on a particular day or if your child is looking to play something different than what his or her friends are playing.

How does a Buddy Bench work? If a child is sitting on the bench that means he or she is looking for someone to talk to or play with. When another student asks the child to play, the child sitting on the Buddy Bench is encouraged to say “yes” and join in with the playground activities. 

On the flip side, if a student is not sitting on the bench, and sees a child sitting on the bench, she or he is again encouraged to invite that child to play.

The new Buddy Bench was set up at the elementary school in November 2020. Kindergarten through sixth grade students were first able to see and start using the bench on Jan. 4 when in-person learning resumed. When spring arrives, the portable bench will be moved to the outside playground.

To ensure the success of the Buddy Bench, and before the bench was installed, elementary teachers read books to the students explaining the purpose of a Buddy Bench. When spring is closer, NY Mills Elementary Principal, Judith Brockway, will ask the teachers to share with their students a video that explains in more detail how to use the Buddy Bench. If COVID-19 restrictions are lightened by this time, Brockway will visit the classrooms instead.

To raise funds to purchase the Buddy Bench, Lisa Preuss of The Preuss Agency, Farmers Union Agency, Inc., in New York Mills, submitted the Buddy Bench project to the IMT Insurance 2020 Community Contest. Preuss is also a board member of the New York Mills Education Foundation. 

Of the nearly 100 entries submitted to the contest, and more than $32,500 awarded to worthy causes by IMT Insurance, the New York Mills Education Foundation Buddy Bench project was chosen as one of the 2020 project winners. As such, Preuss was proud to award a $500 gift to the New York Mills Education Foundation. The Foundation also provided an additional $200 for costs associated with setting up the bench.