Eustis Elementary wins Buddy Bench

Soon, Eustis Elementary School students will have an easier way to find a playground pal. The school recently won a Buddy Bench from Premier Polysteel, a company based in Iowa that has been manufacturing plastic coated metal products since 1974. The bench, valued at $544, will arrive in a couple of weeks. Students seeking a friend can sit on the bench and easily connect with other students who want to be a friend to them.

The contest was open to all public and private schools in the state. To enter, schools had to submit a video or written message stating how they would use the new Buddy Bench to encourage friendship and inclusivity.

The Eustis Elementary entry came from Raelynn Poole, a mental health liaison at the school. “Learning to make friends is a vital part of growing up and an essential part of social development for young children,” she wrote. “Some students struggle with these skills and need concrete examples and a safe structured space to develop and practice these skills. The Buddy Bench would allow our school to have such a space on our campus to continue to build strong resilient students.”

Poole explained that the Student Services team will develop clear expectations for the appropriate use of the bench and will go into each classroom to educate students and teachers on its purpose. They will also engage in role-play activities with students so they know how to use the bench and be a helping friend.

“Our school will be working hard this year to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion, kindness, and caring at our school,” she wrote in the essay. “This bench will be an additional intervention piece that we can use to help make that cultural shift.”

The six-foot Buddy Bench, blue to match the school’s colors, will be placed in a central location on the playground.