Best Buddies

A closer look at the club and life skills classes


Best Buddies members pose at their event at Cox Farms. The trip to Cox Farms has become an annual event. (Photo courtesy of Laura South)

Friendly, fun, and inclusive are some of the words that Best Buddies members would use to describe the club. With over 130 participants and counting, the Best Buddies chapter at the school is a part of a worldwide organization that has nearly 3,000 chapters worldwide. According to Best Buddies International, it has “positively impacted the lives of over 1.3 million people with and without IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities).” 

“Best Buddies is really important because it is a really good way to bring together students who normally wouldn’t interact with each other, and it really promotes inclusivity within the community,” Laura South, co-president of the club, said. “Without Best Buddies, I think a lot of people would have much more negative perceptions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities…. It helps people with disabilities not feel like a foreign concept, which is really good for inclusivity.” 

The club’s activities include visiting Cox Farms, decorating cookies, playing bingo, and hosting basketball games against Yorktown’s Best Buddies program. 

“Decorating cookies [has been my favorite activity in Best Buddies],” Raina Millage, a buddy and member of the club for two years, said. 

Donovan Dabney, another buddy, echoed his excitement towards the club. 

“[Getting] to see my friends [is the best part of Best Buddies],” Dabney said. 

South emphasized the impact Best Buddies have during the school day. 

“If [someone] sees someone they know from the club in the hallway, they go up and say hi, which is a small gesture, but something that’s so important to do,” South said. “I think it’s really cool, I see my buddy Malea everywhere…. I think it helps the buddies to feel more included in the school and they get to see familiar faces in the hallway.” 

Members of the club become a peer buddy, where one joins a one-on-one friendship with a member with an intellectual or developmental disability like South has done. 

“[Peer buddies] really are the heart of the club,” South said. “Even outside of club events they hang out and they’re always talking to their buddies.” 

Later this year, Best Buddies members will participate in fundraising for the annual Friendship Walk. The Friendship Walk event includes a walk of all local chapters around the national mall, a dance party, and an award ceremony for chapters that fundraise the most. Members throughout the spring fundraise online and send emails to friends and family. 

“We get some money [from fundraising] as a club, so we can use that to do our activities, which can usually be quite expensive,” South said. 

The money fundraised also goes toward Best Buddies initiatives as a whole. 

“It also fundraises … [the organization’s] citizens projects where they have apartments where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can go live, and they can live independently, which normally is not [always] something people with disabilities get to experience,” South said. “There are also a lot of citizen outings, which really means that the mission of Best Buddies can continue past high school and college.” 

South recommends the club to anyone looking to make a difference in the school community or to make new friends.

“We don’t tolerate bullies in our club…, so people need to be kindhearted,” South said. “If people want to join, they can join the Remind [by sending a text of @wlbes to 81010], and we’ll add you to the email list, and that’s how you can get to know about events…. Chances are someone in one of your classes is a member of Best Buddies, and you can [also] talk to them about it.”  

Ms. Emily Andrusko, Life Skills teacher at the school, discussed the value of the club to her students and what it could bring to students outside of her class. According to Ms. Andrusko, Life Skills work on academics but also prepare students for life after high school by using money, taking public transportation, visiting job sites and more. 

“A lot of times, we’re just kind of by ourselves [as a class],” Ms. Andrusko said. “Best Buddies is a nice opportunity to get a chance to interact with other kids in the school that we don’t normally see…. [You] don’t come to teach these kids anything, or be in charge of anything. It’s really just time to hang out… We’re a lot of fun. If you get to know us, we’ll be your favorite.”