Can you remember what you were doing at age 7? I was running around, playing with friends. The only thing I worried about was what was the snack that day.
Amaya Read, at 7, was thinking on a much bigger scale.
“When you’re a new kid, and you don’t really know who everybody is, it’s really hard to pick out your friend,” said Amaya, a second grader at Sonoran Foothills School in Phoenix.
Sonoran Foothills School opened this year. And for Amaya, it was off to a slow start.
“When she came home one day I asked her … how school was and she was like, ‘I don’t know mom. It’s, you know, it’s boring. It’s the same ol’ same ol’,'” said Julie Read, Amaya’s mom.
So, Read challenged her daughter, now 8, to find something amazing the next day at school.
“I came home and I told her about the buddy bench program,” Amaya said.
She came up with an idea called the “Bobcat Buddy Program” – named after the school’s mascot – to help make sure everybody has someone to play with at recess.
The program consists of three benches called “buddy benches.” Students can sit on one of the benches when they have no one to play with or are lonely – and other students can come over and offer to play with them.
“If you don’t have a friend, you sit on this bench and hopefully, somebody will see you and come over and say, ‘Do you want to play with me?'” Amaya said.
The school supports the new initiative.
“It’s really important that we teach and expect kindness here and acceptance of one another,” said Sharon Matts, principal of Sonoran Foothills School. “So, this was something our staff decided that needs to be in our culture, in our environment.”
Amaya reached out to friends, family and local business owners to help raise just under $1,500 to fund the three buddy benches – one mini-sized for the kindergarten and two for the main playground.
And, it didn’t stop there.
She raised hundreds more in case another school wants a bench, Read said.
Sonoran Foothills School has installed the bench for kindergarteners, and officials hope to have the other benches by the beginning of the next school.
Amaya just wants to see everybody with a friend.
“I’m hoping to see a bunch of kids in the future that nobody is being left out, nobody has a frown on their face, and they’re all just running around at recess having somebody to play with,” Amaya said.