NORTHFIELD CENTER -- Looking for someone to talk to, but feeling kind of shy? There's a place on the playground for you.

Emma Sarkissian and Ally Siewert, both eighth-grade students at Nordonia Middle School, were recognized May 2 for their work bringing a Buddy Bench to St. Barnabas School.

The pair had been working since October on their Girl Scout Silver Award Project to bring a Buddy Bench to the school because it was the only school in Nordonia Hills that didn't have one. A Buddy Bench is a bench that is used to promote and foster friendship and inclusion of all students on school playgrounds. They are also meant to help decrease bullying as children grow older.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest leadership award that a Cadette Scout, grades 6-8, can earn. Sarkissian and Siewart are part of troop 90937. The project must address a need in their community and the final result must be sustainable.

The students presented their idea to St. Barnabas Principal Tom McFadden last fall, and once the project was accepted, they went to work. The girls found an Akron-based manufacturer of park benches who manufactures primarily from recycled materials, which fits nicely with both Girl Scouts and St. Barnabas School missions.

"The bench is primarily made of recycled milk jugs," Sarkissian said. "So the next time you want to throw out your milk jugs make sure you recycle them instead."

Siewart and Sarkissian worked with the company, Bright Idea Shops, LLC, to design the bench and negotiated a price for the bench. They met with and secured sponsorships from many local area businesses, including Don Basch Jewelers, Farinacci Pizza, and Johnson Romito Funeral Homes to sponsor the bench.

Once they secured funding for the bench, they spent the next few months researching and creating an education program for the students at St. Barnabas to help them understand how to use the Buddy Bench and how to be a good friend to all students. As part of their education program, they created a video with the help of several St. Barnabas students to educate incoming Kindergarten students for many years to come about the rules of the bench, which include: Don't stand on the bench; Don't socialize on the bench; and don't sit on the bench if you already have someone to play with.

Conversely, the video urges kids who need someone to play with or meet someone new to take a seat on the bench and for other kids to invite those on the bench to play.

"If you see someone on the bench join them, make a simple conversation," Sarkissian said naming some icebreakers like what's up. "Make sure no one is sitting lonely on the bench and always be friendly."

The video was viewed by St. Barnabas students during the dedication May 2, just prior to the unveiling of the bench, which is situated by the playground equipment on school grounds.

"The bench is here to help you but for you to use every day," Siewart said to the young students. "You can find other ways to make new friends also, like joining in a game of kickball, hide and seek or find someone who just looks really lonely and ask them to play with you."

The pair earned their silver awards and were surprised with them at the end of the presentation by CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio, Jane Christyson and Community Membership Executive Emily Baskin.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com