Community: Buddy Bench idea adopted at Providencia Elementary School in Burbank


Providencia Elementary School became the second school to unveil a Buddy Bench on Friday, and it was truly a team effort.

Principal Jen Culbertson and the entire student body welcomed city and school officials, as well as parents, to the playground ceremony. Making a special appearance was school mascot Paws — a friendly Panther.

A Buddy Bench is a place on the playground students can go to if they are feeling lonely, need someone to play with or just need a friend, said Rachel Little, president of the Student Council.

NEWSLETTER: Stay up to date with what’s going on in the 818 >>

“When we see someone sitting on the Buddy Bench, it is our job as peace builders to go and invite them to play with us,” Rachel said.

In her speech, Rachel thanked Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford and the city manager’s office for donating the bench; city employees Bill Parish and Brad Taylor for bringing their crew to deliver and set up the bench; and local artist Paul Barach, whose son graduated from Providencia, for donating the supplies and working with the kids to paint the bench.

The idea came to Rachel after she saw a story about Buddy Benches on a morning TV news show, said Lori Little, Rachel’s mother.

When running for Student Council president in September, Rachel told fellow students in her election speech that she thought it was important to bring a Buddy Bench to the campus.

Culbertson said she was proud of Rachel’s suggestion and was impressed that the project was student driven.

“The completion of this project by the Student Council really speaks well of how much our students care and just their level of compassion and empathy for other students, so it was quite impressive,” she said.

Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos presented Rachel with a proclamation from the city.

“As president of the student body, you and I have a lot in common,” Frutos told Rachel. “You represent the student body. You listen to the student body and move forward with a great idea. That’s kind of like what I do as mayor. I listen to the community and I make decisions based on the best ideas. So, to honor you on behalf of the entire Burbank City Council, I have a proclamation for you to show our support.”

Teaford had a schedule conflict and couldn’t attend the unveiling ceremony but said in a phone interview that Rachel wrote her a letter explaining the program and why she thought it would be good for her school. Teaford called Culbertson to make sure she was on board with it.

The concrete bench was in storage at the Public Works yard. It was removed from a bus stop about 10 years ago and replaced by a new metal-style bench, she added.

“We have an administrative policy in the city that allows us to donate surplus materials to nonprofits or public schools with the OK by the city manager, which we have,” Teaford said.

Working with Providencia Elementary School on this project was so much fun, she added.

“It took just a tiny bit of our staff’s time just to transport it because the school didn’t have any way to do that,” she said. “We would have had to transport it to a landfill or concrete recycling facility, so it’s much better to see it being reused.”

Scout leaders recognized for serving youth

Four adult leaders were honored by the Verdugo Hills Council of Boy Scouts of America for devoting time to youth.

Sam Engel Jr., who grew up in Burbank, was installed as president of the local council on Jan. 21 at Anoush in Glendale. He will chair the council’s executive board and oversee the nonprofit corporation and the council’s scouting program. The council serves the areas of Burbank, Glendale and parts of Los Angeles.

Engel was a Cub Scout in Pack 4 and transitioned to Burbank Troop 4, which later became 204. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout by building trails in Wildwood Canyon.

As an adult, Engel, now living in Glendale, has been commissioner and chairman for the district now called Iron Eyes Cody District. He has also served on the local council’s executive board for 12 years. He and his wife, Kathryn, have co-chaired the council’s major fundraiser, The Big Strike Auction.

The council also recognized three Silver Beaver Award recipients, Cory Nakanishi, Meroujan Kitsinian and Jacqueline Natividad. This award is given to recipients by their peers in scouting for their distinguished service to youth.

Nakanishi is assistant scoutmaster of Troop 209 in Burbank, in which he and his wife, Bonny, are involved. They have two boys, Ryan, an Eagle Scout, and Daniel, a Life Scout.

Nakanishi started in scouting in 1967 as a Cub Scout in El Sereno. He earned his Arrow of Light as a Webelo and then moved to Troop 711. He left scouting at 16 but returned in 2001 when his son Ryan joined the newly formed Pack 212. Nakanishi became cubmaster and served in many leadership capacities. He became active in Troop 210 when Ryan bridged in 2006.

In addition to numerous camp leadership positions, Nakanishi has been a merit badge counselor since 2006 and was district commissioner for 2 1/2 years. He served on the staff for the 2010 Council Centennial Jamboree and 2010 National Jamboree. He is also a member of the Order of the Arrow in Spe-Le-Yai Lodge.

Kitsinian became a Cub Scout in the Homenetmen chapter in Beirut Lebanon at age 8. His family came to the United States when he was 10 and he joined the Homenetmen Azadamard Chapter in Pasadena, where he continued as a scout until he was 21. Kitsinian married Diana Adamian and they have two boys, Sako and Hratch. Sako joined the Homenetmen Azadamard Chapter when he was 8 and his father got involved in scouting again.

When the family moved to Burbank in 2009, Kitsinian joined the Verdugo Hills Council, and became a den leader for Pack 212. Sako bridged into Troop 201 and his father is now assistant scoutmaster of the troop. Hratch is a Cub Scout in Pack 201. Kitsinian is on the council’s executive board, training committee and Wood Badge Tri Council staff. He is chairman of the Homenetmen Western Regional Scout Committee and chairman of the Iron Eyes Cody District.

Natividad is a member of the Verdugo Hills Council High Adventure Team and Venture Crew 220. She is a nurse with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a full-time caregiver, teacher and tutor. She and her husband, Mark Lawrence, have a son, Nicholas.

Sister Regina honored on 60th Jubilee

St. Finbar Church will celebrate Sister Regina Palamara’s 60th Jubilee on Sunday. There will be a devotional Mass and vow renewal at 11 a.m. at the church, followed by a community luncheon in Albert Hall. All are welcome.

Sister Regina is the last remaining Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart in California, and the only sister to continue the work of the order’s founder, St. Francis (Mother) Cabrini in Burbank.


JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at


Burbank Public Library contest focuses on amateur photogs

Joanne D. Hale, founding president and life trustee of the Autry Museum dies

Equestrians take the lead against bicyclists in Mariposa Bridge battle