Cassadaga Valley Class Of ‘23 provides Buddy Benches

Cassadaga Valley’s Class of 2023 chose to make buddy benches their senior gift for the elementary students last year. Pictured with one of the benches are, seated from left, Sinclairville Elementary students Bentley Frank and Haven Grover. Standing, from left, are Oakleigh Proctor-Burch, Madelyn Hattaway and Kristin Wise. Submitted photo

SINCLAIRVILLE — Last year’s seniors at Cassadaga Valley Central School came up with a unique idea for their class gift before graduation.

Danyal Dahl, co-adviser for the class of 2023 with Ronette Riforgiat, said the idea is something the class came up with on their senior trip.

“Every year the senior class gives a gift to the school,” Dahl said. “The class thought of silly stuff at first, and I encouraged them to think about doing something more meaningful and think deeper. That’s when they came up with the idea of the buddy bench.”

The Buddy Bench can be found at schools across America, and the idea behind it is if a student is feeling sad or left out they can go sit on the bench and someone will come and talk with them. Dahl said other students will be trained to sit and talk and include kids sitting on the bench when they see that.

The students in the class of 2023 who came up with the idea were Hailey Jastrzab and Nikiti Diabo.

“The bench in my eyes would be used for kids who felt left out, or just needed someone to talk to, and the other kids would be able to approach them and give the students company and show them that they’re not alone,” Jastrzab said. “My goal was for students who feel left out to know they are not alone and that there is always someone they can talk to.”

Diabo expanded on that, saying Cassadaga Valley is where students should feel like they belong.

“Cassadaga Valley to me was somewhere everyone felt like home,” Diabo said. “I know things have changed a lot since I was in elementary school, but I know bullying has gotten progressively worse and lots of students feel left out. The buddy bench is a great way to make kids feel like they belong and that they can make friends just by simply sitting on the buddy bench.”

Dahl added that local businesses helped the class to create their vision of the buddy benches. Adam Diate of Valley Outdoors helped to build the benches, something he said he was more than happy to help out with.

“They reached out to me to build the benches because we have poly furniture in the store,” Diate said. “I had my guy who builds the furniture build the benches. I wanted to be a part of the project because I wanted to help the community and thought this was a good cause. They had a good reason behind it and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Diate also partnered with Hansen Signs out of Falconer to engrave the benches.

The class purchased and donated three benches overall. Two will be placed at the new elementary playground and one will be placed at the Middle High School for the Pre-K students, as that is where they attend school. Dahl said she was not sure if the benches would be placed before winter.

The Class of 2023 presented the gift to the elementary students last year. Class Treasurer Kristin Wise helped to present.

“So I presented the class gift to the entire elementary school on my own and then I helped present it at our graduation along with Hailey Jastrzab and Nikiti Diabo,” Wise said. “When our advisors brought the idea of the buddy bench to me, I was absolutely elated. The purpose of the buddy benches is to encourage children to uplift one another.”

Wise said an example of that would be if a student is feeling low they are taught to go sit on the bench and then other students who notice them are asked to go sit by them and cheer them up.

“The idea behind the benches perfectly encompasses the values not only of the class of 2023, but also Cassadaga Valley as a whole,” Wise said. “I am so incredibly grateful to have been a part of this project, and I hope other districts consider something similar for their students.”


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