Thanks to the energy of fifth-grader Emaleigh Criswell, students at College Lane Elementary School now have two bright red benches where they can go to sit if they find themselves bereft of playmates during recess.
On Tuesday, Emaleigh dedicated the benches as her parents, Brian and Tonya Criswell, her grandmother, Sandra Hubbard, and the entire College Lane student body watched and applauded.
“With the support of a local business, I ordered these two Buddy Benches for College Lane,” Emaleigh said. “If you feel lonely and need a friend, simply sit on one of these Buddy Benches and others will watch the benches and someone will come ask you to play. My hope is that these Buddy Benches develop friendships and eliminate bullying.
“Please be caring and remember to check the benches to see if somebody needs a buddy.”
College Lane principal Susan Flowers said the benches will be part of next year’s emphasis on student kindness.
“We want students to be kind to each other and these benches will help them learn to do that,” Flowers said as she waited in the school reception area before the dedication ceremony on the east side of the building began.
Emaleigh said she has never been lonely on the playground, but she has friends who have been.
“I saw a TV show about the Buddy Bench and I thought it was a good idea,” Emaleigh said.
She also discovered that there are several books written for elementary school students about Buddy Benches. She gave five books to the College Lane library and her mother ordered two more that will be published in August and given to the library.
Emaleigh, the national winner of Our Diamond Miss Pageant, said arranging for the benches was worth one point at her competition in the older age bracket next month.
“That’s not very much and that’s not why she did it,” Tonya said. “She wanted to leave a legacy at College Lane and this seemed like a good way to do it.”
Competitors in the Our Diamond Miss Pageant for 2020 will begin in August and will include three segments, modeling, talent and face-to-face interviewing, Emaleigh said.
“My talent is performing Irish tap. It’s something I learned at Maciolek Dance studio. My grandmother made my costume for the pageant,” Emaleigh said.
Hubbard said she makes all Emaleigh’s costumes other than the ones she used in Maciolek’s recitals.
“The one she wore at the pageant in Chickasha (Oklahoma) was pink and brown,” she said. “I think being in these pageants has been wonderful for Emaleigh. She’s very confident and meets people easily.”
Emaleigh said she’s looking forward to the next round of competition, said she’s also looking forward to middle school and that she hopes the Buddy Benches will make a positive difference at College Lane next year.
Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at .