'Buddy Benches' in Peoria schools encourage kids to find a friend

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Vicki Hunt bought Buddy Benches for five Title I elementary schools in the Peoria School District. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Vicki Hunt bought Buddy Benches for five Title I elementary schools in the Peoria School District. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The goal is to teach kids social skills, acceptance, promote friendship and build character. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The goal is to teach kids social skills, acceptance, promote friendship and build character. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Teachers are also encouraging kids to speak up when bullying happens. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Teachers are also encouraging kids to speak up when bullying happens. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

On the playground of Cotton Boll Elementary School in Peoria Monday morning, 9-year-old Jackson Lugo shared a time when he felt lonely.

"In kindergarten, I was playing by myself, and there was no one who could play with me. It made me feel sad," said Jackson.

Nine-year-old Regan Ward also had a story.

"In first grade, I had this one friend, and she would be like, 'I’m not your friend anymore,' like pretty much every single week, and so I would feel like I had no one else to play with," said Regan.

[RELATED: 7-year-old girl starts buddy program at school to help kids feel special (Sept. 30, 2015)]

Former high school teacher, now Peoria City Council member Vicki Hunt witnessed that pain of being left out.

"It's just an awful thing," said Hunt. "You could tell the kids that had been bullied or been called names because they had low self-esteem. I want to make sure these guys come out thinking they’re the greatest kid in the world."

[IN TEXAS: 'Buddy Bench' helps Robinson kids make new friends]

This is the reason why Hunt purchased "Buddy Benches" for five Title I elementary schools in the Peoria School District. The idea behind this tool?

"Whenever you’re feeling sad you can just sit on the bench and have someone be your friend and have company with you," said 8-year-old Malarie Collins.

The goal is to teach kids social skills, acceptance, promote friendship and build character. Teachers are also encouraging kids to speak up when bullying happens.

"I would be like, ‘Can you stop doing this? It’s not nice,'" said 8-year-old Kellen McMillen.

For more information on the "Buddy Bench" program, visit their website

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