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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Best Buddies club hopes to bring change to school

courtesy of assistant principal Matt Torrens
Students at the Halloween Party gather around the robot demonstration organized by the Best Buddies club.

On Oct. 31, the recently revived Best Buddies club assisted the special education team to organize and participate in a Halloween Party for the special education students in the school. 

The club, brought back to campus by junior Nishant Nair, is a chapter of the international nonprofit Best Buddies. Its mission is working to integrate mainstream students and those with learning disabilities.

The decorated small gym was open for the whole school day with periods 2 and 4 being setup and cleanup periods, respectively. The facilitated party included a robot showcase and live dance music — members of the club left their classes to assist and be present for the events, which also included a magic show.

The activities acted as a way for special education and mainstream students to create lasting and meaningful friendships. The club hopes to be involved in more events similar to the party with even more widespread participation.

“We get to create more connections between the two [groups] because we usually don’t really talk with them that much, it’s just an opportunity to meet new people to get more integration,” Nair said.

The Best Buddies mission is to create an international volunteer group ​​that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships and inclusivity for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The group serves, but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities. 

“Right now, there isn’t a lot of contact between mainstream and special ed [students], but creating a bridge between the two is the first step in our mission,” Nair said.

The group aims to end the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the world by empowering them with lasting friendships and helping them improve communication skills.

The club’s bi-weekly meetings on Red Day Wednesdays aim to achieve this goal. Because the club is tied back to another organization, it is supplied with resources and activities to do during meetings. 

“We have fun activities like playing board games or games like Simon Says,” Nair said. “Or we talk about how our week has been, how our month has been, just general conversations.” 

Despite the name, the club is not just focused on creating one-on-one pairings. Officers hope to create a community where members can talk to each other about their problems or anything going on in their life.

“We tried to make them feel like they were a part of a community that they wouldn’t normally get a chance to participate in,” junior officer Abhinav Kiran said. “Normally, they don’t have as many social encounters because they’re antisocial, so we want to give them a chance to have that normal high school experience.” 

So far the club has struggled with a lack of members. The club is entirely composed of juniors with no underclassman participation.

According to Kiran, having more members will create a better environment for getting to know the students with learning disabilities. Going forward, the club also wants to hold other events for special education students.

“We don’t want to be a club that disappears after we graduate,” Kiran said. “We want Best Buddies to have a lasting impact on the school.”

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