North Forrest High School students building friendships by building benches

North Forrest High School students building friendships by building benches

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A single act of giving back to the community has grown into acts of kindnesss. One bench at North Forrest Elementary has gone from a peek into a potential career path, to high school students paying it forward to elementary kids.

Brad Baggett, former president of Hattiesburg Homebuilder’s Association, said it all started when the association wanted to get involved in the community so it partnered with North Forrest High School’s construction program.

Baggett said the members wanted to show the students that there’s more waiting on them after high school if college isn’t an option.

“Let’s face it, some people aren’t going to go be doctors and lawyers,” Baggett said.

He said to show the students what construction is all about, they donated funds for lumber to the vocational-technical programs in the area. But it’s turned into something more than just building.

“I’m so excited! I’m so excited!,” Baggett said.

The high school decided to have the students of the construction program build buddy benches for the kids of North Forrest Elementary School. North Forrest High School Principal Jennifer Riels said the purpose of the buddy bench is simple yet meaningful. The kids are taught to keep an eye on the bench, and when they see a child sitting on the bench, it means that kid needs a friend.

“It’s kind of without saying it, letting people know this child may need a friend today,” Riels said.

North Forrest High School Senior Timothy Finch said so far they have made four benches for the elementary schools in the district. He said the benches would have made a difference when he was a kid.

“It would have made everything a lot easier for everybody...both parties included,” Finch said.

North Forrest Elementary School Principal, Torquato O’Neal said what’s more is the high school students are paying it forward to kids playing on the very grounds they played on years ago.

“They get to leave something in a place that meant so much to them many years ago," O’Neal said. “Their cousins, little brothers, little sisters are here and enjoying something that they have taken a part in building.”

Riels said there will be a buddy bench going to all five elementary schools in the school district.

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