• 82°

AES initiative memorializes Stallworth

Beloved custodian was often buddy to students, teachers

A group of Andalusia Elementary School retired teachers, current teachers and the parent teacher organization have come up with a way to memorialize Kenny Stallworth, by incorporating “Buddy Benches” around the school playgrounds.

Kenny Stallworth

Third grade teacher Stephanie Pearce came across the idea on social media after a group of teachers were thinking of a way to honor Stallworth, who passed away in July of this year. Stallworth worked as a custodian and groundskeeper at AES, where he had been a fixture since joining the school in January of 2001, about the time it opened.

“We wanted to do something to honor and remember Mr. Kenny,” Pearce said. “He was a buddy to not only the students, but to the faculty as well.”

Pearce said that she was on social media when an NBC article came up about the Buddy Bench.

“I saw the video about the buddy benches and knew that it would be a perfect idea,” Pearce said. “He was truly a buddy to every one. He could have run this school, I mean he did everything. He was a leader to the students and an amazing role model.”

The way the Buddy Benches work is if a kid is feeling lonely, left out or looking for a friend when they are on the playground, they sit on the Buddy Bench and a classmate will notice and ask the kid to play.

“We hope that this will help with bullying and students feeling isolated,” Pearce said. “It is a way to make friends and get everyone involved.”

AES teacher Jill Bryant believes that this will help with bullying as well.

“The retired teachers, current teachers and PTO did a great job coming up with this idea to honor Mr. Kenny,” Bryant said. “I think this is such a great way to help with the bullying problem in elementary schools and a way to include everyone.”

Julie Curry from the Andalusia PTO said that Buddy Benches are a way to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on playgrounds.

“How does the Buddy Bench work? If you are sitting on the bench you are looking for a friend,” Curry said. “When someone asks you to play, join them, and always remember to glance over at the school’s Buddy Bench to invite new friends to join in. If you are not sitting on the bench, ask your classmate on the Buddy Bench to play, and make a new friend today. Keep growing your circle of friends until everyone has someone to play with.”

Curry said that more than 1,000 children will be impacted by this project, and that the benches will be a good memorial for Stallworth.

“These benches will be in memory of Mr. Kenny Stallworth,” Curry said. “Mr. Kenny was someone we at AES cared about so deeply and he cared so deeply about our school and students. This will be one way we can continue his legacy and he will be able to touch many more children in the years to come.”

Curry said that there is not a specific fundraising goal for the benches, but the cost range is from $500 to $1,000.

“Parents can send the money with their child in an envelope labeled Buddy Benches,” Curry said. “Community members can take it to the school office. It just needs to be in an envelope labeled Buddy Benches.”

The AES Buddy Benches will have a plaque in honor of Stallworth.