Northwest Career & Technical Academy Students Construct ‘Buddy Benches’ for Several Local Elementary Schools to Prevent Bullying

From left; Jennifer Lewis, Chancellor Spencer Stewart, Sean Stewart, Stephen Sifuentes, Ashley Garcia, Margi Grein, NWCTA faculty and elementary school students sit on the “Buddy Benches.”

By Ashley Glenn

“Buddy Benches” may be the new way to prevent bullying and promote friendship here in Las Vegas, and Northwest Career & Technical Academy is participating. On March 24, NWCTA hosted it’s “Construction with a Purpose” Student Fair which showcases student’s projects in construction, architecture and engineering fields but also presented their newly constructed “Buddy Benches” to 11 local elementary schools.

“This is a program that is designed to push back on bullying and cyber-bullying,” Chancellor Spencer Stewart from WGU Nevada said. “But states and districts that have adopted this have seen remarkable results in incidents of bullying going down.”

Stewart was the main sponsor behind the “Buddy Benches” event and spoke about the lasting impact the benches would have on student’s lives. The benches were designed so that if a child were to feel lonely or upset, they could sit on a bench and signal their peers that they need a friend. WGU Nevada sponsored the materials for each bench and DC Building Group will install the benches at each school free of charge.

“As a good community partner, we wanted to focus on something that would make an impact,” Stewart said. “And as we talked about this, we felt that we should look realistically at the education of the schools and with the incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying on the rise, we felt that this would be a good program.”

Stewart said they are looking at these first 11 schools as a pilot, but if the feedback is positive, WGU will expand to other elementary schools within the valley. However, Stewart is optimistic that the “Buddy Bench” program will be a success as it symbolizes the schools’ commitment to fight against bullying.

“I think it’s fabulous and it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Elizabeth Katten, the principal at Eva G Simmons Elementary School, said. “I think we’re always trying to look at involving all students, and teachers do such a great job of that in the classroom, but we want to make sure when there’s other [social] opportunities that we’re giving everybody a chance to feel included.”

Katten was eager to be a part of the “Buddy Bench” program when NWCTA reached out to offer. Simmons was one of the 11 elementary schools receiving a bench that day and is looking forward to the positive impact it will have on the student’s social lives. This was part of the goal for the Nevada State Contractors Board who helped to put on the “Construction with a Purpose” Student Fair.

“We put on this event so we could promote workforce development, highlight the benefits of construction education among our youth, specifically with regards to these Buddy Benches,” Jennifer Lewis from the Nevada State Contractors Board said. “It’s a great visual example of how we come together as a construction industry, we build products that go to the community that really benefit and have a lasting impact.”

The Nevada State Contractors Board has been promoting their statement of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the pubic and highlighting the aspects of the construction industry and the Buddy Benches has been a six-month project for them and the high school. The hope, Lewis said, is that it will not only promote anti-bullying, but also show students what they can build for their community with their own hands and hopefully look forward to a future in construction.

“To the extent that we can make this a visible reminder and find heroes and champions on campus,” Stewart said. “That will make a difference.”

To find out more about the “Buddy Bench” program and how it was started, visit buddybench.org. To find out more about NWCTA’s other high school programs, visit www.nwctahawks.net.

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