FOND DU LAC, Wis. - A 16-year-old Florida girl, who was born without complete arms, believes her invention to stop bullying may also help prevent violence in our schools. On Friday, she delivered one of her friendship benches to Evans Elementary School in Fond du Lac.
Acacia Woodley, founder of Tiny Girl, Big Dream, created the friendship benches six years ago. The idea came to her after she moved to a new school in Florida and became the target of bullying. She said created a friendship bench at the school and saw results. Bullying victims and students who felt sad or alone would sit on the bench which served as a signal to others that they were hurting. Classmates would then walk over and comfort them by being a friend.
Woodley believes using compassion to combat isolation may even prevent a school shooting like the recent massacre in Parkland, Florida.
"Looking at our news and seeing a lot of really bad things going on, students can look at that and say, 'Oh, if I do something bad, I'm going to get recognized for that,' because everybody wants a little bit of attention but this allows students to start doing good things and get recognized for doing good things," she explained.
Principal Amy Rettler believes the benches will make a difference.
"The more that we can spread acceptance of each other for all of our differences, the more likely our students are going to feel that they're accepted and comfortable and not feel like they're standing out or left out."
Rettler is placing the bench in the media center at Evans Elementary. Eight friendship benches are now in Fond du Lac and North Fond du Lac.