How One PTA is Forging Friendships BY MELISSA WITHAEGER Providence Elementary in Denton ISD recently unveiled a Buddy Bench on their playground which was purchased through a grant obtained by the PTA. The idea started when Providence first grade teacher Donna Lewis approached Melissa Withaeger, PTA Secretary (currently PTA President), last school year with the idea of installing a Buddy Bench on campus. Lewis had read about the bench in an article and thought it would be a great idea for Providence to have: “As a teacher, I monitor the students on the playground for safety but there really isn’t a way to know if a child is feeling sad or lonely because they have no one to play with. A Buddy Bench creates that ‘safe’ place for a child to sit if they have no one to play with, if they are feeling sad and lonely, or if they are new to campus and are having a difficult time fitting in.”
The Buddy Bench allows our students to recognize when their peers need a buddy, and to immediately show empathy by helping students join others in play and conversation. - JAIRIA DIGGS, PRINCIPAL 6
Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice
The idea of the Buddy Bench hit close to home for Withaeger. Her son would occasionally come home and share that he had no one to play with at recess. She did some additional research with Lewis on the cost of the bench and then approached the PTA Executive Board with the idea of purchasing the bench. Since advocating for all children is one of the core values of the PTA, the Executive Board approved Withaeger’s request to apply for a grant to make the bench a reality. She recalls, “The number one priority of the Executive Board is to make sure all children feel included on campus and in the activities we sponsor. Introducing a Buddy Bench on campus was going to help us get one step closer to meeting that priority.” The PTA was awarded a grant through the Walmart Community Grant Program a few months later. The money was earmarked to the school for the purchase and installation of the bench. The school selected a districtapproved vendor and picked up the installation cost.