Teens Without Borders donate Buddy Benches

BUDDY BENCHES ADDED TO PLAYGROUNDS at Naples and Sebago schools, donated by Teens Without Borders, a service academy at Lake Region High School. Pictured are: back row left to right, Devin Langadas, Mary Loan, Sophia Fagone, Sarah Hancock, Mike Rust, Arianna Libby, Lauren Williams, Allison Morse, Kyle DeSouza, Emily Secord, Abby Scott-Mitchell, Grace Farrington; front row, Devynn Turner, LRHS teacher Ian Carlson, LRHS teacher Christina Gaumont and Michaela Tripp.

BUDDY BENCHES ADDED TO PLAYGROUNDS at Naples and Sebago schools, donated by Teens Without Borders, a service academy at Lake Region High School. Pictured are: back row left to right, Devin Langadas, Mary Loan, Sophia Fagone, Sarah Hancock, Mike Rust, Arianna Libby, Lauren Williams, Allison Morse, Kyle DeSouza, Emily Secord, Abby Scott-Mitchell, Grace Farrington; front row, Devynn Turner, LRHS teacher Ian Carlson, LRHS teacher Christina Gaumont and Michaela Tripp.

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer
Whether they are one, 100 or 10,000 miles away, Lake Region High School teens continue to learn they can make a difference as “global citizens.”
“Teens Without Borders” was part of the Lakers in Action academy, but when that academy was dissolved last year, students banded together with teachers and formed an independent elective course open to all.
With teachers Christina Gaumont and Ian Carlson as their advisors, students have undertaken a variety of public service projects that truly prove borders mean nothing if there is a strong will and effort to help others in need. The projects vary from building “Buddy Benches” for local elementary schools, to raising money to create “birthing bags” to give Haitian women (85% don’t have access to health care), to taking part in a walk in Portland, raising awareness regarding the plight of Nigerian girls, captured by an extremist group.
Carlson and three Teens Without Borders members — Abby Scott-Mitchell, Michael Rust and Emily Secord — made a presentation Monday night before the SAD 61 School Board at Songo Locks School.
Last year, the group raised over $200 (donated to UNICEF) to help Syrian refuges. This year, the early focus is to make an impact in its own backyard. The group raised money and built “Buddy Benches,” which were delivered to Sebago Elementary and Songo Locks last Wednesday.
The “Buddy Bench” was created by Christian Bucks, who attends Roundtown Elementary in York, Pa. According to his website, in the spring of 2013, when Christian was in first grade, there was a possibility that his family was going to move to Germany. When they were looking at a website for a school overseas, Christian saw a picture of a special bench on the playground. He asked about it and liked what he heard. He thought it would be a really great thing to have on the playground at his current school, Roundtown Elementary. He knew that there were some kids who felt lonely at recess and he thought this would put an end to that! He told his teacher and his principal about it and they thought it was a great idea!
Christian didn’t move to Germany, so he was able to stay at Roundtown. His principal researched it and let Christian help pick out the bench in the fall! After the buddy bench arrived, Christian gave a presentation to the school board to explain it. Before it was placed on the playground, Christian spoke in front of his whole school at a community morning meeting to explain the buddy bench and show a video about it that he made with his principal. The kids loved it and were very excited for the bench to be placed on the playground!
Teens Without Borders also liked the idea of a “buddy bench,” which might eliminate loneliness and foster friendships on the playground. Students held bottle drives and fundraising events at football games. Not only did they build the two benches ($175 each), students also developed 10- to 15-minute lesson plans emphasizing that playgrounds should be “safe places” and free of bullying.
Up next is the Veterans Day Celebration on Monday, Nov. 10. This will be the fifth year LRHS has held the celebration. Rust told the school board that the first three years were under the direction of Principal Ted Finn, but last year the Community Service Academy took the lead, and now Teens Without Borders will take on the event.
Students met with American Legion Commander Curtis Merrill to talk about what parts of past celebrations went well, while also considering some new twists, including having a recent Lake Region graduate, who is a member of the Armed Services, be the guest speaker. Another new item to the program will be a LRHS student giving a “Slam Poem” reading.
The public event begins at 12:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Veterans are invited to a special luncheon, prepared by LRVC culinary arts students, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the vocational center’s Great Room.
Future projects Teens Without Borders has in mind include continued work with the Konbit Sante program (to support the development of a sustainable healthcare system to meet the needs of the Cap-Haitien community with maximum local direction and support) and a visit to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.
“We also have students developing individual, interest-based service projects,” Carlson said. “Our students have chosen to become active members in their immediate community and global citizens. They are hungry for knowledge about the larger world and with minimal guidance they have researched, planned, and implemented projects that help others locally and internationally.”
School Board notes
• Superintendent Al Smith recently met with new Bridgton Town Manager Bob Peabody regarding the upcoming school budget. It was suggested that Superintendent Smith invite Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education Jim Rier to a meeting here (including other town selectmen and managers) to discuss possible changes in the state’s education funding formula — getting away from using property values as the driving force, which hurts the Lake Region area due to its lakefronts.
• Due to strict governmental regulations and an apparent uptick in the amount of construction work available to companies, the development of a water storage system at Songo Locks School might be delayed possibly to spring.
• LRHS Class of 2015 made Halloween night special for some 400 plus visitors with the annual “Trunk or Treat” event held in the school front parking lot.
• Student Council members carved nearly 1,000 pumpkins, which were auctioned off at L.L. Bean as a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine.
• Lake Region Middle School had the following band and choral members selected to the Honors Festival: Lucien Wallace, flute; Matt Mayo, trumpet; Tim Holbrook, baritone horn; Susan Rose, soprano; Emily Colson, Ethan Colson, Payson Avery and Rachel Jensen, alto.
• School Board members approved a recommendation by Athletic Director Paul True to pay varsity boys’ soccer coach Michael Chaine half of the JV coaching stipend, after Chaine had to handle coaching duties for two squads this fall. True has looked for a JV coach for the past two seasons, but came up empty. In talking with fellow athletic directors, True found other schools had the same problem of filling JV coaching positions, and as a “fair” compensation, awarded the varsity coach half of the JV stipend. The good news, True said, is that there is a possible candidate for the JV job for next season.

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