10 Years of Best Buddies
On Friday, November 4, Downingtown High School East’s Best Buddies program celebrated its 10-year anniversary of friendship-making during matching day.
The international Best Buddies program empowers the special abilities of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society. As part of the Best Buddies initiative to create one-to-one relationships, schools in Downingtown Area School District (DASD) host annual matching parties where participants are paired together to create “buddy families.” Through their participation, people with and without IDD form meaningful connections to gain self-confidence and self-esteem, and to share interests, experiences and activities with their peers. The buddy families are known to last for years after the students graduate.
On November 4, East Best Buddies participants entered their matching day to the cheers of the school’s freshman football team. Students were then ushered into a fully-decorated cafeteria to enjoy a host of games, activities and a special 10-year anniversary cake. More than 50 students participated in this year’s program.
Meghan Funderburg, autism support teacher and Best Buddies co-advisor shared, “I genuinely love seeing the kids excited about making new relationships with their peers. Every year presents an opportunity for the buddies and peers to establish meaningful relationships! The pairing is one that brings life and promotes inclusion in an already-vibrant school.”
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Justin Brown and the district’s Cultural Equity Task Force hope that student groups such as these continue to create a more inclusive environment for all students. Said Brown, “As our district continues to grow and change, it is wonderful to see such support in our schools. We greatly appreciate the Best Buddies program, its co-advisors and its participants for their tireless efforts and dedication to promoting inclusivity and student belonging in the classroom.”
Amy Rowe, Best Buddies co-advisor, stated, “I am so proud of this program. It has changed the dynamic of the high school community for the better and has made all participants more aware and understanding of all people. I feel grateful that this program has flourished and taken such a positive impact on our East community."
Additional information about Best Buddies can be found on the Downingtown Area High School East’s website at https://de.dasd.org/. To learn more about how DEI works in DASD, visit www.dasd.org/diversity.