UR’s Best Buddies chapter held its first general interest meeting Feb. 9 in Sloan Auditorium. 

Founded in 1987 by Anthony Shriver at Georgetown University, Best Buddies has grown into an international nonprofit comprising a network of chapters dedicated to promoting a more inclusive community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their mission, as stated on their website, is centered on “establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-on-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living.” 

The UR chapter was founded in late 2023 by sophomore President Audrey Chung, who first joined the Rochester Citizens Chapter of Best Buddies. During her time with this chapter, she was matched with Trinity, a peer who had the same hobbies as her. Chung reflects on this friendship fondly. 

“It’s been nothing like I’ve expected, because I wasn’t part of Best Buddies before I joined the Rochester Citizens Chapter,” she said. “[…] We just had a special connection and it’s been like one of the most genuine relationships I’ve had.” 

As she got more involved, she realized that while surrounding colleges such as Nazareth, St. John Fisher, and Cornell had Best Buddies chapters, UR did not. She felt that bringing Best Buddies to the University could be a way to increase feelings of community and inclusivity around campus. In the process of starting the club, Chung was excited to learn about the history of Best Buddies. 

“I [wanted to] capture their essence the best I could, and present it to UR,” she said.

Freshman Vice President Ciara Johnson-Corwin was involved in Best Buddies in high school, where she was matched with Rylie, and said “it really showed me true friendship.” Johnson-Corwin and Rylie still remain good friends to this day. The eboard expressed excitement in bringing Best Buddies to UR in order to collaboratively address the long-standing social exclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Out of the four main goals outlined in Best Buddies’ mission, the UR chapter focuses on building friendships. Whether in a one-to-one capacity or in a “friendship family,” as a group, people are matched based on similar interests. From there, pairings and groups can make plans to attend upcoming events together. Trinity, the Buddy Director of UR’s chapter, is responsible for checking up on friendships to make sure everything is running smoothly. 

Since the chapter’s beginning, the eboard has fulfilled its mission by planning collaborations with other universities’ chapters, UR clubs, and the Rochester community, planning events like their Friendship Walk to bring together the greater Rochester population. The “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign occurs on the first Wednesday of every March; Publicity Chair and freshman Jimin Lee noted that the club will be doing related projects during that month to support the cause of ending the use of the “R” word. She added that a key focus for the club is “improving the inclusion of the community of the campus through various projects.” 

Interaction doesn’t just happen with local chapters, but nationally and internationally as well. The U.S. annual National Leadership Conference in Indiana provides an opportunity for those with leadership positions to come together for community building, and it fosters a supportive environment for idea generation and event planning. Ambassador training is also something the eboard is working toward, a program that equips trainees with the opportunity to convene with chapters across the globe, added Johnson-Corwin.

Upcoming opportunities and events at the club include their March 6 Spread the Word to End the Word event, their April 27 Friendship Walk, and other fun events like sports games, cookie decorating, movie nights, and bracelet making, all of which are open to everyone. 

During the GIM, the eboard emphasized that Best Buddies is open to anyone, with the option for varying levels of commitment. 

“You can either decide to be in a one-to-one friendship or a friendship family or you can just decide to come to events and have fun with us.” 

Looking ahead, Chung sees a great future for Best Buddies: “I can already tell from the energy in this room that Best Buddies at Rochester is going to last a long time.”

Tagged: Best Buddies

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