A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Best Buddies program helps unite Parkdale

Parkdale has one of the largest Special Education departments in the county with over 200 students receiving special ed services. Staff and students at Parkdale have mastered a way to make all students feel included: the Best Buddies Program.

Best Buddies was introduced last school year and helps both students with and without disabilities by giving all participants a new perspective of how kind people can be to one another.

Best Buddies International is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the group’s mission.

Many friendships have formed because of this program mainly due to the fact that the buddies sit together at lunch. This also helps prevent bullying and makes students more social.

“[This program gives] the opportunity to be friends with people who have such a great attitude and who are fun to be around,” said senior and Best Buddies member Jordan Harris-Taylor. “Also with this program, I’ve learned to be patient and have a more caring side.”

The Best Buddies program is open to all Parkdale students interested in reaching out to students they may not otherwise interact with.

“I want to tell everyone that students with disabilities are not different,” said Best Buddies sponsor Ms. Powers. “They have different abilities. We all fall short in something that we do, but we all have gifts and talents.”

Ms. Powers is looking for more buddies and is hoping to expand this program to students who are nice and understanding and willing to be a buddy to someone with disabilities.

Many students already involved have learned that just because you have disabilities doesn’t make you any different.

“When you actually get to know [the buddies] they are just like everyone else,” said Harris-Taylor. “They are sweet, kind, funny and very loving. I’m very involved with them because I love them.”

Interested students may contact Ms. Powers at [email protected] for more information.