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Best Buddies club would promote diversity, build relationships across school districts

Over the summer, Emily Brown takes a break from teaching dance to pose with
Kennedi (left) and Emma (right). Brown’s experience with these children with
Down Syndrome inspired her to become an advocate for the members of the
Down Syndrome community.

Courtesy of Emily Brown

Over the summer, Emily Brown takes a break from teaching dance to pose with Kennedi (left) and Emma (right). Brown’s experience with these children with Down Syndrome inspired her to become an advocate for the members of the Down Syndrome community.


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Founded in 1989, Best Buddies brings together students with and without special needs to form friendships and offer volunteer opportunities.There are nearly 2,500 chapters worldwide, according to the organization’s website, and yet our school doesn’t have one. This is a shame. A Best Buddies chapter would create leaders out of our students while encouraging them to build diverse relationships.

This summer, I had the privilege of meeting a rising kindergartner named Kennedi, and we have been inseparable ever since. Kennedi has Down Syndrome, a genetic disability caused by an extra chromosome called Trisomy 21. This extra chromosome creates an intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities. Before this summer, I had no idea what having Down Syndrome entailed, or that flexibility and impaired eyesight are common characteristics among people with Down Syndrome, but Kennedi taught me all that and more.

When I returned to school this fall, I looked around with fresh eyes, and I realized that, unlike other schools in our area, we did not provide students with the opportunity to form the type of bonds that I had the privilege to this summer. We need a Best Buddies Club on campus, and although our school alone could not accomplish that, we could easily join with other schools in Leon
County to offer this experience to our students.

Best Buddies programs create a safe place where people can come together and form relationships that might not have happened otherwise. There are chapters in over 50 countries, and Florida hosts 212 student chapters on campuses across the state.
Nearby, one of Leon High School’s most popular clubs is their Best Buddies Club, which they call Lions United. They participate in volunteer events, and walks and advocate for students who cannot advocate for themselves. They have many members who actively post their
experiences on social media, and partnering with Lions United would be the perfect opportunity for us to begin volunteering with this
valuable organization.

Although we may only have a very small population of students with special needs, FSUS is no stranger to diversity. We may not be able to accomplish it by ourselves, but with a little bit of planning, our school could find a way to help promote the mission of Best Buddies in the community. Until then, students who are interested in the program can find a local walk or donate to the
national organization at www.bestbuddies.org.

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Best Buddies club would promote diversity, build relationships across school districts