Students at Deer Creek's Leaf River/White Pine Academies can now utilize a Buddy Bench to help foster friendship.

The school is a Level IV special education behavioral program with students from around the region.

Jena Osberg, coordinator at Leaf River/White Pine Academies said the behavioral program is offered through Freshwater Education District and includes students in grades K-12.

"The idea behind the Buddy Bench is for a student who is feeling lonely or not being included in an activity to sit on the bench to indicate to other students they want to be part of the group or activity," she said.

The school was encouraged to send in an application to win a Buddy Bench from Premiere Polysteel, a manufacturer in Northwood, Iowa. Corey Coen, Rachel Taylor and Cari Stenzel, employees of the company, drove six hours to deliver the bench in person and talk to students about the meaning of the bench.

"We were moved by the application they sent in," Coen said.

Special education teacher Becki Church said that having the bench will allow students to use their empathy and compassion to make new friends.

"It's always tough being the new kid and adapting to a new school," Osberg said. "Many of these students are only here for a short time and there are always new kids."

Church added that the school focuses on four key components: safety, responsibility, respectfulness and being a self-advocate.

The school uses a system wide approach that utilizes Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

"We teach kids to be an advocate for themselves and this bench is the perfect way to demonstrate that," Church said.

Other area schools, including Wadena-Deer Creek, have Buddy Benches on their playgrounds that are being utilized by students.

"Our kids will have an idea of how to use one of these benches when they return to their school," Church said.

Some students demonstrated how to react to someone who is sitting on the bench. Other students were excited that the bench matched the school's colors of maroon and gold.

"We hope to hear a lot of kids say 'meet me by the buddy bench,'" Church said.