by Lisa Tome
In Vacation Bible School at Freedom Church, London Stephens learned a great deal about kindness.
In the last few months, Stephens, a fifth grader at Conowingo Elementary School, learned about patience.
A few years ago while attending VBS, Stephens learned about the concept of a Buddy Bench. The benches, placed in areas such as school playgrounds, are designed so children who are feeling lonely or who need a confidant can sit on the bench and foster friendships. Stephens also learned about random acts of kindness during VBS.
She put what she learned together and came up with the idea of creating a bench at her school. She then created a PowerPoint presentation. London's mom, Christie, said London put the presentation together on her own. The next step was sharing it with her fellow fourth graders in Christa Mcintyre's class.
That's when the patience portion kicked in. "They scheduled meetings and I had to wait," she said. "I learned to stick with things."
London then presented the idea to all the fourth grade. She then followed that up by sharing it with school administration. During a PTO meeting, she made the presentation again. Her persistence paid off, and this summer, the PTO paid for supplies for London and her mom to get to work on the bench. On Monday, eight days before school started, they stenciled the bright yellow bench. The Buddy Bench is labeled on the back rest. and "Kindness Matters" is on the seat. The bench is also decorated with stars, paws, and colorful shapes.
And that won't be the only Buddy Bench at the school. Her first was such a success that Stephens will create one at another school play area. She also hopes to start a Buddy Club, where students will learn to use the bench and be trained in friend-making and mentoring. This is her last year in elementary school and she is considering bringing the Buddy Bench concept to middle school in the future.
London's father, Frankie Stephens, is serving in the U.S. Air Force and is currently stationed away from the family. He is keeping up with news regarding the Buddy Bench via facetime.
Her mom said the whole family, including London's three siblings, are enthusiastic about this accomplishment. "We're proud of London and the thought behind it. She recognized the need for it and she thought of others. She was looking out for other people," Christie Stephens said.