Rogers High School junior Colin Norris-Beesley knows what it’s like to be a new student.
With a father in the military, he often moved around the country growing up. It was hard, he remembered, to create new friendships from scratch.
“For the first few months it was very difficult to make friends,” said Norris-Beesley, 17. “I bumped into people and started taking with them, but you feel kind of excluded. It's hard to get into already-formed groups.”
Now, Norris-Beesley is making it easier for students to make friends with his creation of a Buddy Bench, which is meant to initiate student interaction and give students a spot to hang out together. Norris-Beesley’s bench was installed at Ridgecrest Elementary in Puyallup.
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“I’m hoping that it becomes easier for students to be able to make friends,” said Norris-Beesley. “I hope that any students that are feeling left out will have an easier time interacting with other students.”
I’m hoping that it becomes easier for students to be able to make friends. I hope that any students that are feeling left out will have an easier time interacting with other students.
Colin Norris-Beesley, junior at Rogers High School
As a Boy Scouts of America member, Norris-Beesley got the idea for the bench after his Scoutmaster suggested it.
“I was having a difficult time trying to figure an Eagle Scout project,” Norris-Beesley said. “He came to me with this idea and I thought it was pretty cool.”
Norris-Beesley became involved in Boy Scouts not long after he moved to Puyallup around seven years ago. Before, he’d lived in Texas and Vermont. He’s been working toward earning his Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement level in Boy Scouts.
One of the requirements of achieving the rank is to create an Eagle Scout project.
“There’s a lot of stuff you have to do, but (the project) is the main part,” he said.
When Laurie Laramie, a first grade teacher at Ridgecrest Elementary, heard about Norris-Beesley Eagle Scout project, she knew it was perfect for her school. Laramie helps run the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program that meets every month at Ridgecrest.
“We talk about programs that support positive behavior,” Laramie said. “We talked about how Buddy Benches were springing up all over the country and we thought it’d be a great thing to have here.”
We talk about programs that support positive behavior. We talked about how Buddy Benches were springing up all over the country and we thought it’d be a great thing to have here.
Laurie Laramie, teacher at Ridgecrest Elementary
Laramie reached out to Norris-Beesley, who agreed to create the Buddy Bench for the school.
“The school had a design in mind and we just looked up a bench that fit that design,” Norris-Beesley said. “It was a little bit lower than normal benches to keep it easier for (the students) to reach.”
Norris-Beesley began gathering his materials, paying for them himself at Home Depot. It took about three to four hours to construct the bench and a few days for painting the bench blue, Ridgecrest’s school color.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” Norris-Beesley said. “The only other major woodworking project I ever made were planter boxes.”
Already, Laramie said the students at Ridgecrest are using the bench and seem to really like it. Moving forward, both Laramie and Norris-Beesley hope the bench continues to stimulate interaction between students.
The main goal is to “help children with socialization, to make them feel like they belong (and) to encourage other students to reach out,” Laramie said.
There are currently eight Buddy Benches on school campuses in the Puyallup School District: Brouillet, Edgerton, Fruitland, Hunt, Maplewood, Pope, Ridgecrest and Woodland elementary schools.