SUTHERLIN — Children dressed in green bustled into Sutherlin’s West Intermediate School auditorium Friday morning to remember Treven Anspach, 20, a student who once sat in their same place years ago.
During the assembly, they learned more about the former West student, who died last year in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. They also learned more about Treven’s Bench, an all-metal seat installed on the school’s playground in his memory.
The bench takes after the buddy bench system, used by schools across the country to help students make new friends. The idea is simple: if a student sees someone sitting on the bench at recess without a friend, then that student should join the other student in friendship.
“We are going to call our buddy bench Treven’s Bench, so we’re going to tell students to keep an eye on Treven’s Bench and watch for students that need a friend,” West Principal Trish McCracken said.
Treven’s Bench serves as a positive symbol and memorial to the all-star student teachers lost last year. It was made by Sutherlin High School students in the Career and Technical Education program.
“For our staff, it was a way to keep Treven’s spirit alive,” McCracken said. “I didn’t know Treven, but everybody here loves him. He was known for being kind and helpful.”
Brende Teske remembers him vividly when she was his fifth grade teacher.
“He’s one of those kids you don’t forget,” Teske said. “Very outgoing, very friendly. He was always helpful.”
At first, teachers considered putting the bench at the front of the school so everyone driving by could see it. Then they decided to install it permanently on the school playground, so students can use it during recess.
“Our staff wanted people to know that this isn’t just for Treven,” McCracken said. “It’s for everybody, because we know that there are others who are hurting.”
Staff also considered planting a tree in his memory, but they decided a buddy bench was the best way to remember him.
“This really represented his spirit,” McCracken said. “He’s not gone. Kids will keep doing good things because of him.”
After the assembly in the auditorium, students filed outside to the playground where they released a handful of green balloons, representing the UCC school colors.
Treven’s parents were among the crowd at the dedication ceremony. Students at the ceremony, though brimming with energy, understood the solemnity of the event, and bowed their heads in a moment of silence. Terry Prestianni, Sutherlin schools superintendent, praised them.
“It’s a very big deal to Treven and his family,” Prestianni said. “And you are very wonderful children.”