Club Spotlight: Best Buddies

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Sarah Shivakumar, Op-Ed Editor

Best Buddies International is a global organization that dedicates itself to creating awareness and ending social and economic injustice as well as isolation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, otherwise known as IDD. Creating one-to-one friendships through their 3,000+ chapters worldwide, Best Buddies work towards offering social education, employment opportunities, leadership development, and inclusive living amongst individuals with IDD.

Amongst Wilcox’s numerous clubs, Best Buddies has definitely created a name for itself amongst the Charger community. Wilcox Best Buddies helps arrange and enjoy time with the students from the Life Skills classes here at Wilcox. Students, both with and without IDD, create buddy pairs at the beginning of the school year to and develop lifelong friendships that go past just high school. President of Best Buddies Wilcox and senior, Rishita Kumar states, “ Kindness and friendship and inclusivity are aspects that Best Buddies exemplifies, but honestly, are lost in day to day life. I love Best Buddies because we strive toward an environment in which all students truly feel included and accepted for their most authentic selves, in Wilcox and beyond.” Best Buddies Wilcox is meant to be a safe space where students can express their love for making new friends and getting involved in the community. Junior Mati Stock, who is a publicist for the club, explained her reasons behind joining the club. “I decided to join Best Buddies because I felt that it would be a good way to meet new people, practice my interpersonal skills and also help those around me,” stated Stock. Best Buddies has opened its doors to any and everyone who is willing to spend time with students of the Life Skills class and at the same time, spread the mission of Best Buddies; to create a more inclusive world that does not create stigma or discriminate against individuals with IDD.

Much of the stigma involving individuals with IDD “incorporates prejudicial, discriminatory and stereotypical perceptions and behaviors towards people with IDD from the broader society,” according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Best Buddies works towards ending this stigma that emphasizes how individuals with IDD are less capable and less normal than the rest of society. Best Buddies works to create an environment where the mocking of individuals with IDD and discriminating against them because of their condition is unacceptable and creates awareness around the fact that we are all human regardless of our health conditions. When asked why Junior Sydney Shumaker joined the club, a publicist for the club stated, “I decided to join Best Buddies because I was attracted to the club’s commitment of making Wilcox a better, more inclusive environment. I strongly believe that this club offers that and more. I was also inspired by the idea of breaking traditional social barriers between students with and without IDD, allowing for deeper connections and relationships with one another that they may not have experienced otherwise.”
Best Buddies Wilcox has created a name for itself, both at Wilcox and in the state of California. Raising over $15,000 for the annual Friendship Walk fundraiser for the organization, Best Buddies Wilcox has been named Champion Chapter in the region for three consecutive years. The Friendship Walk is a fundraising event that is held in different regions across the world. This event is held primarily for two reasons: to spread the word about Best Buddies and raise money to fund projects such as employment and housing opportunities for individuals with IDD. And Best Buddies Wilcox has definitely contributed their share of both!

One of the most popular events at both Wilcox and Santa Clara is the Special Olympics held on a yearly basis. Leaving their competitive rivalry behind, Best Buddies Wilcox and Santa Clara work together to organize and perfect the beloved event, holding it at both schools alternatively. Students of the Life Skills classes at both schools compete in athletic sports such as soccer and basketball and show off their school spirit to make their schools proud no matter the outcome. With bleachers full crowds of Wilcox and Santa Clara students and teachers are always cheering for their fellow classmates. This is the type of opportunity that Best Buddies opens up for everyone.
“I saw and was surrounded by the clear distance between students with IDD and without throughout my life. Just seeing people at school laugh at or outright mock students in the special education department quite honestly was as infuriating as it was disheartening. But there were also times when the opposite happened and friendships were born in only one meeting,” stated Rishita. Best Buddies has had huge success creating a close-knit community amongst Wilcox students and will continue to do so as long as they are here.