Photo Information

U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 174, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing deliver buddy benches to Kainalu Elementary School, Kailua, Hawaii, April 1, 2024. MAG-24 Marines partnered with the school to construct and deliver six buddy benches that serve as a positive space for students to sit and make friends. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tania Guerrero)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tania Guerrero

MAG-24 Marines Partner with Kainalu Elementary to Build Kindness

8 Apr 2024 | Lance Cpl. Tania Guerrero 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

KAILUA, Hawaii – To kick off the Month of the Military Child, U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 174, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, partnered with Kainalu Elementary School’s Transition Center to construct and deliver six “buddy benches” on Apr. 1, 2024.

The first buddy bench was invented in 2013 by a seven-year-old student aiming to assist peers who were lonely or new and wanted to play or socialize. The buddy bench was used to let other children know that they were available for playtime or conversation. These benches have since been embraced by schools to promote inclusivity, combat bullying and enhance students’ social and leadership skills.

In coordination with their Parent-Teacher Association, Transition Center and MWSS-174 Marines, Kainalu Elementary School embraced the buddy bench initiative, aiming to create a supportive environment for students experiencing difficulties during recess or seeking companionship. By sitting on a buddy bench, students communicate their desire for friendship, prompting others to reach out and forge connections.

When the opportunity arose to partner with Kainalu Elementary, the Marines of MWSS-174 had the capabilities to build the benches and were more than happy to support. Under the supervision of Sgt. Maj Henry French, sergeant major of MAG-24, they constructed and primed six benches, putting in over 20 hours of work, that were then hand-delivered to the school. “MAG-24 is all about contributing to our community and helping out however we can,” said French. “Many of our families have direct connections to Kainalu Elementary, and it was a chance for one of our squadrons to interact with our community,” he added.

The buddy benches would also not have been possible without the dedication and leadership from Resha Ramolete, the principal of Kainalu Elementary. Ramolete spearheaded the instatement of a Transition Center at Kainalu Elementary to provide transitional support and resources as their enrollment of military impacted students has recently increased.

“When our Transition Center thought about reaching out to a Marine unit, it was really to make meaningful connections where we can support each other,” Ramolete explained. “We are truly appreciative and grateful for our partnership with MWSS-174. To have a unit volunteer to help is extremely special to us and is something we will remember for years to come,” she added.

The Transition Center focuses primarily on military impacted students, however, also helps new students with any background, and endeavors to promote resiliency and competency through social-emotional learning, activities, and initiatives. The center addresses issues such as bullying, fear, deployment, moving, homework, student health, making friends, grief, divorce, family reintegration and integration into a classroom.

“The Transition Center makes sure students feel a greater sense of belonging and to help them feel like they are a valued part of our community. The more we are able to support our students here, the better they can deal with extenuating situations outside of school,” Ramolete explained.

An integral initiative of the Transition Center is the Aloha Ambassador and Crew program, which promotes student growth in public speaking, confidence, and leadership, reinforcing the school’s values of excellence, kindness, and service. Kainalu Elementary’s Aloha Ambassadors and Crew, who are students themselves, spend their free time working on special projects. Earlier this year, they created a rock garden in their school’s courtyard, designed to commemorate students who have moved away and serve as a reminder that they will always have a special place at Kainalu Elementary. The Aloha Ambassadors and Crew members were just as eager stand alongside the Marines during the buddy bench delivery.

“Our Kainalu ‘Ohana is over 47% military and our partnership with you could not have had better timing,” said Rosyln Meinert, the Kainalu Transition Center Coordinator. “Kainalu is grateful to have one of the longest-standing military partnerships on the island with Marine Corps Base Hawaii and the squadrons of MAG-24, and in this case, MWSS-174.”

As the Marines of MAG-24 prepare for their return to the Kainalu Dolphins, they look forward to painting the benches vibrant Kainalu colors alongside the Aloha Ambassadors and continue to cultivate their meaningful community partnership.