Best Buddies or Life Long Friends!


Best Buddies!

Caroline Polian and Jamie Tuczynsk

From cross country to choir, Landrum offers many extracurricular activities, including a club that gives students a different perspective of life. Globally, 200 million people have intellectual and development disabilities (IDD). They face social and physical isolation, which can occur daily, and makes them feel ashamed. However, there is a way can you make a positive impact on these individuals.

Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization that helps people with IDD feel accepted in society. The program helps them make friends, secure successful jobs, and live independently. This program is a volunteer movement that relies on us to continue the foundation of the success of these students. Luckily, at Landrum Middle School, you can help make a difference by joining this club.

For the 2018-2019 school year, around 75 Landrum students take a part in making their peers with disabilities feel accepted. This program is located in Ms. Newsome’s classroom, where Ms. Apelian is the current sponsor of Best Buddies. She continued this club after it was started here eight years ago. Since that time, the club has grown considerably, including a full day of dedicated to this club every week.

“Every Friday is ‘Fun Friday’, meaning in the classroom there is no academics. Instead, students who are in the club can come during their elective classes, and join us for activities. Most of the time, they are gardening, cooking, games, and crafts,” Ms. Apelian says.

Zeta Washington has been in Best Buddies for two years. She signed up to have fun and make new friends. Almost every Friday, she goes to the classroom during her electives.

“My favorite activity is to just go hang out with the kids, and enjoy the fun times I have with them,” Zeta explains.

Katie Shapiro joined the club in her eighth grade year. She looks forward to Fridays, where she can go do fun activities, and has become better friends with some of her peers in the program.

“I just wanted to be a friend to a kid who might need one,” Katie clarifies.

Best Buddies isn’t only a program at Landrum Middle School, but is also located at Ponte Vedra High School. However, the clubs differ in the skills that are taught. At Landrum, the focus is on social skills, like how to create relationships with other students.

“Since we are focused on social skills, it is important for other to students to come on Fridays, so that way our students are able to work on what they are learning, and relate it to real life,” Ms. Apelain describes.

In high school, life skills are essential. Students learn how to count change, bag food, and live independently.

“I would definitely join at Ponte Vedra High School, because I really liked it at Landrum,” Katie declares.

Although there are 75 students in the Best Buddies program this year, some students feel that this club is not promoted enough. Sports teams such as basketball or soccer are more popular than Best Buddies. Most students agree that this is because their peers don’t know what occurs in this program. Students are able to participate in field trips and weekly classroom activities, but some want more time to create a better friendship.

“I think one way to get more kids involved is having an elective class for Best Buddies. That way, you can form better relationships with everybody in the classroom,” Zeta advises.

Most people think that Best Buddies is just a way to make new friendships, but this club has a long-lasting effect on both the buddies and the students.

“When you grow up, people with disabilities are not focused on. I think that this club gives people an insight into a life different than theirs. For the buddies, this club shows them that just because they might have differences, it doesn’t mean that they have to be excluded. It shows that they are still valued by society,” Ms. Apelian explains.

According to Best Buddies, 119,118 total participants help promote the mission of this club. They show that people with disabilities are important and valued in societies. By participating in walks, events, or donating are just a few of the many ways to get involved. As middle schoolers, we don’t always have the time or money to help. The easiest way to get involved is to join the club at Landrum and create a life-changing impact.