Best Buddies: A New Form of Friendship

Best+Buddies%3A+A+New+Form+of+Friendship

Lauren Mitchell, Reporter

Woodland Park High School has immense participation in the Best Buddies Program. Students involved have the opportunity to work one on one with the special education department. This club allows the general school population to form friendships with students with autism, Down Syndrome, severe ADHD and many other intellectual and physical disabilities. The program released a statement saying that, “As a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. Although Best Buddies has advanced tremendously in its short existence, many areas of the country and many regions of the world still lack programs to help people with IDD become part of mainstream society. With that in mind, Best Buddies is systematically implementing its 2020 Initiative, which will witness the organization’s continued significant growth, both domestically and overseas.” This proves that the program is continuing to expand progress and develop on a global scale, and Woodland Park gets to experience it firsthand.

WPSD is the first school district in the country to offer the program as a class. Approximately 40 kids, ranging in grade levels, are involved. Not only does each SPED student have a buddy during every class, but they also have outside-of-school buddies as well. These peer buddies go on bowling trips, walks, rides and trips during the weekends and breaks together. The class itself hosts activities as well. This semester included a Homecoming Dance and Treat Street event which included volunteer general ed students and any SPED student in the district and was officially run by the student officers, Cheyanne Hellman, Carly Poe and Dominic Roskam. Music, cake, drinks, games, toys and dancing were included in each event. As more events are held, participation increases each time, and more teachers, volunteers and students are involved. In order to afford the food, games and venues for the events fundraisers are encouraged. On certain Fridays each semester the class allows the regular student body to pay a dollar to wear a hat all day, which has raised about $70 for the organization so far. The support and participation is huge, and the entire student body can become involved in multiple manners.

The goal of the program is acceptance for those who seem different. Around February, Best Buddies plans to create a week dedicated to “Spread the Word, to End THE Word”. It has become an epidemic in the United States that people of all ages choose to use the term “retarded” casually and inappropriately. There will be assemblies, sponsorships and daily themes similar to the ones held during the Fall Homecoming Week. The class hopes to get school wide participation while forming an understanding of how hurtful the language can be.

Parents often inquire about how the class interacts with the SPED students, and they are incredibly supportive and excited to see the future expansion of the club. Mr. Dove, the Best Buddies supervisor and Special Education Specialist, said “Our severe needs students absolutely enjoy their peer buddies. They look forward to them coming to class each day. I also believe that many of our peer buddies enjoy their work, because they get to know someone who is different and get a broader perspective of life.” Woodland Park School District Best Buddies Program opens a door to knowledge, understanding and potential career paths. The BB website puts it simply, “Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)”  As a community we are coming together to support those who think a little differently, and as a group we will continue to educate and promote understanding of disabilities their impacts.