Best Buddies Club breaks down barriers to friendships

The most pop­u­lar club at Quakertown Community High School only meets once a month for one hour, but its impact on the 180 stu­dents involved may be mea­sured by the smiles and friend­ships it’s created.

The club is called Best Buddies, and it’s ded­i­cat­ed to end­ing the social, phys­i­cal, and eco­nom­ic iso­la­tion of peo­ple with intel­lec­tu­al and devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. With the help of advi­sors Jennifer Honrado and Brittny Buonanno, Best Buddies pro­vides club mem­bers oppor­tu­ni­ties for one-to-one friend­ships; lead­er­ship devel­op­ment for stu­dents with IDD; makes all stu­dents feel val­ued, and helps improve life skills.

Our goal is to bring every­one togeth­er and have them all become friends,” said Julie Pizzi, pres­i­dent of Best Buddies. “Everyone is smil­ing, and talk­ing about their pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences all the time. I love how every­one is so hap­py when we’re togeth­er. No one is left out. It’s not about hang­ing out with your friends. It’s about meet­ing new peo­ple and mak­ing new friends.”

Julia Reich, the club’s vice pres­i­dent, explained that get-togethers are “very much about inclu­sion. It’s impor­tant to us that stu­dents with spe­cial needs make friends in Best Buddies so they feel hap­py and includ­ed out­side of meet­ings because they have new friends.”

Julie and Julia, along with stu­dent advi­sors Olivia Caputo, Jessica Meirinho, Carli Maha, Emma Pham, Madalynn Willing, Aubree Thrush, Stone Renshaw, Madelyn Byrnes, Anna Zheng, Maureen Healy, and Dylan Aponte plan activ­i­ties to help stu­dents of all back­grounds come together.

These activ­i­ties include:

  • Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Groups went trick-or-treating around the school.
  • Thankful leaves for turkey and friend­ship bracelets: Students wrote what they were thank­ful for on a leaf and made bracelets out of beads. 
  • Holiday Bingo: Winners were award­ed a vari­ety of prizes.
  • Just Dance: Everyone got on the dance floor and par­tic­i­pat­ed in a few just dance videos.
  • Popcorn and a movie/Valentines for teach­ers: For half the meet­ing, stu­dents made valen­tine’s let­ters for teach­ers and the oth­er half watched min­ions clips.
  • St. Patty’s Scavenger Hunt: Special needs kids used cal­cu­la­tors and reg­u­lar ed kids helped them solve the prob­lems; which led them to their next prize.
  • Outdoor field day/games: Students will be out­side this month play­ing all sorts of out­door games, such as kick­ball, Jenga Giant and Cornhole.
  • Best Buddies Ball: In May, stu­dents will enjoy a night of danc­ing and food. “Everyone is real­ly excit­ed about this one,” Mrs. Honrado said. 

Seeing these kids light up when they come to the meet­ings is the rea­son why peo­ple come,” Julie said. “It’s amazing.”

Said Julia, “These events give the bud­dies oppor­tu­ni­ties to inter­act with oth­er peo­ple out­side of the class­room. The bud­dies are con­stant­ly talk­ing about the pro­gram, ask­ing when the next event is. It’s great to be part of.”

Principal Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal said the rela­tion­ships that have been formed in the club “are heart­warm­ing to see. The con­nec­tions are phe­nom­e­nal. They have pro­vid­ed our stu­dents a sense of belong­ing, a sense of community.”

Best Buddies mem­bers recent­ly vis­it­ed the Sixth Grade Center and spoke with stu­dents about the impor­tance of inclu­sion and accept­ing dif­fer­ences in peo­ple. “They spread a pos­i­tive mes­sage to our kids and we appre­ci­ate them vis­it­ing with us,” said Erika Studer, an English Language Development teacher at the SGC

Mrs. Honrado said when you go through the high school cafe­te­ria and “see bud­dies sit­ting togeth­er or walk­ing down a hall­way togeth­er, it’s all about inclu­sion and kind­ness. We have a real­ly good group of kids.”