Did you know you could change a life by simply saying “hi” in the hallway. By being a “Best Buddy” students can have that impact.
George Meyers, Woodland psychologist, introduced the new program Best Buddies at Woodland just weeks ago. Best Buddies is an organization that works on establishing a one to one friendship where students with disabilities are paired with members of the Best Buddies program. When explaining to potential members of the new club the values of the Best Buddies program Meyers explained that often people with mental and physical disabilities are not given the chance to be friends with people around the school. He also said that for years people with disabilities were isolated from society. sometimes, students with disabilities are not able to make friends easily with others, but by incorporating this program at Woodland it is hoped that this will change..
The organization working to help students with disabilities is Best Buddies. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Shriver, the best buddies program has expanded and become accepted in society. The Best Buddies program works on establishing one to one friendships. Student without disabilities are paired to a student with disabilities. As society removes the stigma against people with physical and mental disabilities the students begin to feel like they belong.
To be a best buddy is a big responsibility. The students are encouraged to talk to their best buddy at least once a week and meet with them twice a month. One concept stressed is to make the students feel equal.
No one likes to be let down, but students with mental disabilities can hold onto this disappointment for a longer period of time. The disappointment can take a toll on the student and hurt them emotionally.
In order to create these beneficial friendships, the idea for the Best buddies chapter at Woodland was introduced after learning about it from Cheshire High School. Cheshire High School has the Top Chapter of this program and was honored the award last year. Activities that Woodland’s Best Buddies program holds will be modeled after Cheshire’s program.
This program is continually expanding through the states. Some high schools that have the Best buddies Chapter in Connecticut include not only Cheshire, but Naugatuck, and Shelton too. Many activities for Best Buddies create opportunities for new friendships. For example, the Harvest Dance at Cheshire High School on November 9th invited surrounding towns that had the chapter to attend as well. The Best Buddies program is not only in the states, but have become an international program and is in over 13 countries around the world today.
For people who are interested in the program but are not available enough to create a one-to-one friendship they can go to the meetings and befriend all the students. This way students can still be involved, but do not have to worry about their commitment to an individual student.
For the students with disabilities who may often feel alone and unimportant, this program helps establish friendships and make them feel like they are apart of something. Perhaps George Meyers stated this quote best;”I do not look at these kids as disabled, they are just one of us.”
All students deserve a chance to develop friendships. The goal of the Best Buddy Program is that one day the program will not be needed because everyone will be friends with everyone.