Ricci looking to build Buddy Benches for schools throughout district

Ricci looking to build Buddy Benches for schools throughout district

One of Ricci Middle School’s buddy benches in memory of Ian Novacek. The buddy bench program will be expanded to other schools in the district.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Noting the popularity of Ricci Middle School’s new Buddy Bench, dedicated in memory of former student Ian Novacek, the school is looking to help spread the program throughout the district.

Ricci has two Buddy Benches, built by students at the school, and dedicated on Oct. 25 in memory of Novacek, who died in August 2018.

The idea behind the Buddy Benches is to foster friendship and connection among the school community. If someone is sitting on one of the benches, they might be looking for a friend, and other students are encouraged to come sit by them.

“We wanted to do something to memorialize Ian,” said Ricci Principal TJ Mellen.

“Really, he was one of the most friendly, caring and thoughtful students that I ever met. Having a Buddy Bench and what that signifies is something we wanted to do for him.”

Now, Mellen and School Committee member Chuck Pollock are looking to expand the Buddy Bench programs to other schools in the district.

“This would be a great opportunity for our students,” Mellen said, as the benches were built by Ricci students on the mechatronics team. “It’s geared primarily for K-6, so it is appropriate certainly if Birchwood would like one as well.”

Mellen said the district has new children move in on “an almost daily basis,” and that the Buddy Benches will help them feel less isolated.

It’s also a learning opportunity for the students who will collaborate to build the benches, like they did with Ian’s benches at Ricci.

Estimated costs are roughly $313 for an 8-foot bench.

The School Committee, on Nov. 20, voted to allow Mellen to move forward with the project, building for all of the schools that might want one.

“I certainly support the idea. I think it’s a great idea, it’s been around for a while and it’s about time we took advantage of helping those kids who really need that,” said Chairman Frank Pallotta.