Over the past school year, I have written various blog posts about the Best Buddies program. The purpose of this these posts has been to inform readers not only about the positive effect of the Best Buddies program on students with disabilities, but also about the effect it ultimately has on the EPHS community.
(In case this is the first you have heard of Best Buddies, here is mission of the organization. “Best Buddies is…dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” )
My interest in working with people with disabilities has existed for much of my life. Growing up, my Uncle Tiago was always around. He used to play with my cousins and me even though he was 12 years older. Despite our age difference, I never really thought of my uncle as different than me. When I was older, I realized that my uncle has severe disabilities. Being part of a program like Best Buddies has helped me realize that there are people out there who are willing to help. I know that my uncle today has chances that he may never have had.
I was happy to bring some of my experience to EPHS where I met Heather Anable, my best buddy. We go together to Best Buddies events and I enjoy hanging out with her outside of school. After I graduate in a few weeks, Heather and I will maintain a relationship. That is one the many things that Best Buddies strives to accomplish.
A few weeks ago at the EPHS junior prom, Heather was nominated to be part of the prom court and she was overwhelmingly chosen as Junior Prom Queen. As an 18 year old young woman, Heather was excited to attend her first prom and the event was clearly a highlight for her. Everyone at the prom cheered as Heather took the ceremonial dance of the Prom Queen. It was a moment that EPHS should be proud of.
This is what Best Buddies is all about. The goal of the program at EPHS has been to inform students about people with disabilities and to teach students that having a disability is okay. Student with disabilities are just like any other student. They want to have fun and learn and hang out with friends just like everyone else. At the prom, I was proud of Heather and I was proud of my school.
When I graduate from EPHS in a few weeks, I will leave proud of the impact that the program has had on the high school. Our school is accepting of different types of people. Here at EPHS, students are willing to help and are willing to learn. The special education program is one thing that makes EPHS special and makes the school stand out. I guarantee that you will never find a more accepting community. Students with disabilities are part of sports teams and part of vocational programs. Students with disabilities attend prom and other school events. These students walk the halls of EPHS and receive high fives from other students.
We may have our share of issues at EPHS, but the tremendous character and compassion that the students at EPHS have is a remarkable strength that cannot be overlooked.