Thursday marked the first time students from first through eighth grades at Tenaya Elementary School in Groveland gathered in the cafeteria for an assembly.

“We believe that kindness is so important that we wanted to gather all our students together at the same time to talk about friendship” said principal Wynette Hilton.

As students entered, the managers of Groveland Pizza Factory, Earl Wright and Christina Leaman, handed out bright green bracelets with the words “Be Awesome, Be Cool, Be Friends” printed on them.

Those six words are part of the Pizza Factory’s mission statement. Pizza Factory put on the assembly to talk about kindness and to reveal the company’s donation of a friendship bench, where students who aren’t having a particularly great day can sit and find a friend.

CEO and president of Pizza Factory, Mary Jane Riva, of Oakhurst, led the assembly about being kind to one another, choosing words wisely and reminding them that “ignoring someone is a form of bullying.”

Riva also called on the eighth-graders to “remember, you are modeling to these younger kids. Be good role models. They’re watching you, and they will imitate your behavior.” Riva challenged them: “Let’s be known as the school with the nicest and kindest students”.

“Friends are Awesome” and “No Bully Zone” is carved into the recycled plastic Buddy Bench that will be placed under an apple tree on the school playground where it will be accessible to all students.

Riva said, “How you treat someone can make their day or break their day. Choose kindness.”