COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — As students get ready to head back to school, the Collier County Public School District is promoting programs aimed at achieving academic success - as well as keeping kids safe.
"When you look at people that have had shooting scenarios in their past, they're kids that have been lonely," said Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton.
The district is training certain students to reach out to any students who show signs of isolation, such as eating lunch alone.
"The We Dine Together program is for our middle and high school kids," Patton said. "They're on the lookout for kids that sitting by themselves."
There's a similar program at all elementary schools in the district, where each playground has a blue "buddy bench" that student ambassadors are assigned to keep an eye out for child who takes a seat.
"The ambassadors find their way to the buddy bench as well, to sit with that student and invite them to play," said Tammie Stewart, principal of Mike Davis Elementary. "We've seen it work so beautifully on a number of occasions."
Patton said that another initiative has counselors check in with students who are new to the district on their first day of school, then follow up with them after 30 days and 60 days to make sure they're making friends.