'Buddy Benches' discourage bullying at local schools

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Buddy Benches are cropping up at schools around the Triangle (WTVD)

Bullies can wreck a child's school experience. To keep kids from feeling isolated by those schoolyard bullies, "Buddy Benches" are popping up on playgrounds around the Triangle.

Holly Springs high school student Lehi Tonga made a couple for his former elementary school, because he knows what it's like to be picked on as a little kid.

Even with so many kids having fun at recess, the playground can he a lonely place for a child who feels left out, teased, or bullied.

"I was short and skinny, but I had a bigger head and they would always tease me about it, day in and day out," Tonga shared with ABC11. "I would normally just laugh it off, but eventually it started to hurt."

Now in high school, Tonga wanted to help kids who felt singled out. He saw Buddy Benches cropping up on school playgrounds around the country, and decided he and his Boy Scout troop could build them.

"If you're a new student, or kids aren't really hanging out with you, and you'd like to find new friends, you can always come over [to the Buddy Bench] and sit down, and always make new friends," Tonga explained.

Michael Przybowski is a school counselor at Holly Grove. He said when a child sits on the bench, the other children come running. They know when someone is on the bench, that someone needs a friend.

"Kids who are feeling lonely out on the playground do see [the benches] as a safe place to come to gain friends, to sit with other kids, be invited by other kids to enjoy the activities," Przybowski said.

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