Pay it Forward: Students raise money to install a 'buddy bench' at their school

When the school store is open, students rush the table to see what they can buy (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Making friends at a new school can be difficult and lonely for some children.

So a group of young girls at Hawthorn Academy in West Jordan are working to help fellow classmates find friends on the playground.

Every Tuesday, Alexis Garduno, Amanda Bullock, Ciceley Brentel, Grace Beazer, Ivy Pullan, and Jadiah Costello run a store.

"We sell lots of school equipment like pencils, pens, sharpeners," Brentel said.

They also sell toys like Play-Doh and bouncy balls. Everything is five dollars and under.

"We're trying to raise five-thousand dollars," said Brentel.

The money they're raising is for a so-called "buddy bench" for their playground.

"If someone's lonely, they don't really have any friends, they can go over there and people know that they're really lonely," Brentel said.

The group of girls also hope to get other playground equipment with their fundraiser.

Brentel got the idea when she and her sister started attending Hawthorn Academy.

"She was really depressed and she didn't have any friends," said Brentel of her sister, Livia.

Livia also loved swings, which Hawthorn didn't have.

So Brentel got her friends together to start thinking of ways to get swings. They also decided a buddy bench would be a good idea for other lonely kids.

They got together with the school's counselor, Salli Robinson, to put things in motion.

Robinson oversees their meetings and helps them figure out what they need for the store and for the playground.

"The girls really do everything," Robinson said.

Robinson has noticed the group's efforts have already made a big difference at Hawthorn Academy.

"It really has changed the way kids are thinking and acting towards each other," she said.

The store has been a big hit at the school, and students are happy spending their money to spruce up their playground.

"It's not just about the buddy bench, it's about having people be included," Robinson said.

Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to help the girls get closer to their goal.

They still have a ways to go before they reach $5,000. If you like to help, there is a GoFundMe page for the fundraiser.