6th grader combats bullying with bench
The sixth-grader at Palm Bay Elementary School has learned to stand up for herself. Born without a right hand and a deformed left one, she has embraced what she calls her "difference." It's part of what makes Acacia, Acacia.
"Some people say they feel sorry for me. I tell them not to be," she said. "I don't care that I'm different. I like that I'm different."
Moving from the Caribbean to South Carolina, then to Arizona, and finally Florida, Acacia realized there were bullies everywhere.
After arriving in Brevard, she decided to do something about it. She proposed a place where anyone could go when they need a friend, when they could use some support or reassurance. Or even a hug.
A "friendship bench."
If a student sits on the bench, it's a signal to classmates — and nearby adults — it's time to become a friend. Acacia borrowed the idea from something she'd seen in South Carolina.
Acacia's first friendship bench sits in the Palm Bay Elementary School lobby, a brightly painted, Adirondack-stye place to sit.
So far, it's been put to good use and has proven such a popular idea that other schools are inquiring about one, too.
Principal Lori Migliore uses the bench almost every day as a positive end to what is often a hurtful encounter between children. After winding up in the principal's office for horsing around or shoving, students sit together on the friendship bench.
Leaning against various words painted on the back rest — "respect" is on one side, "encourage" on the other — students are asked to come up with a joint effort to make the school better.
Recently, a pair of boys said they would yank some weeds from the front of the school, a job Migliore usually does herself.
"It's limitless," Migliore said of the bench's possible uses. "We've just scratched the surface."
What's clear is that it's a safe space for kids.
Critical thinking challenge: What could you do to make your school a better place?
Define these words: deformed, reassurance, encourage
- Posted on November 20, 2012
Students create world's longest friendship chain
She overcame bullies to become Miss Nebraska
Robot replaces girl at school
Would you rather sit on chairs or balls?