Two colorfully decorated friendship benches made their debut this month at Cayman Prep.
Designed by students, the benches were unveiled during the Friday school assembly on Sept. 9.
“The student council wanted to come up with an idea to help someone struggling to play with someone, or who was feeling lonely or left out or needs a friend,” explained the school’s student council coordinator Karen Doran.
“The idea of a friendship bench is that a student needing a friend or someone to talk to will go and sit on the bench; that’s a sign to other kids to come over.”
Ms. Doran said the council came up with an idea for the friendship benches.
“The student council wrote to the PTA proposing the idea and the PTA agreed to fund the project.”
They decided to do a contest where all students were invited to submit designs, and the council voted on their favorite ones.
“We had hundreds of submissions, it was lovely to see the interest,” said Ms. Doran.
“School caretaker Durga Ramsahoi made the benches and they were painted by the Year 6 students.”
One bench was designed by Zolla Jones and Lauren Chiazza, who drew the design while in Year 6. The girls have since moved on to high school and have just started Year 8.
“I am really glad to have been involved in the friendship bench project,” said Lauren. “It will hopefully create and help maintain friendships and relationships for all future generations of kids, teachers and parents at the school. That’s a special thing to be a part of.”
Zolla noted that since school is not just about learning but about making friends as well, the idea of the friendship benches really took off and inspired a lot of students to submit designs.
“I really liked the concept and it gave me a chance to do something for the school,” she said. “I never thought that our design would win and am delighted that our friendship bench will help bring primary school students closer.”
She said the girls wanted their design to be calming, “so we picked a cherry blossom tree, but also wanted it to be bright so it would stand out in the playground,” said Zolla.
The second bench was designed by Mason Oelschlager.
“I made the design bright and happy so kids might feel that [way], even if they are feeling a bit unsure or lonely,” he said.
“The bench is to remind the other kids not to forget ones that might get left out,” he added.
At the unveiling, school principal Trish Taylor spoke to the students about the meaning of the benches, reminding the children of the support that was available to them.
Zolla is hopeful the idea behind the benches will have a lasting impact at the school and beyond.
“It’s definitely important that we do nice things for each other without asking for anything in return; that’s a moral everyone should be taught. If it only helps one child in the whole year, it will have served its purpose,” she said.
“I would say to a kid who is feeling lonely or bullied, that they are not alone and everyone feels lonely at points in their lives and you’ve just got to push through,” she added.