Lincolnshire students to gain Best Buddies
Stevenson junior Justin Kolpak (left) of Buffalo Grove, president of the Best Buddies chapter at Stevenson High School, and senior Eric Chiu, a buddy director, talk to students during the Jan. 23 event. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
What: Best Buddies program
Where: Stevenson High School
Who: Mainstream and special-needs students
Why: Building friendships, understanding
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:24PM
LINCOLNSHIRE — At Stevenson High School, one of the highlights of the first full week of classes will be the beginning of a new year of Best Buddies.
Founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver two decades ago, the now-international nonprofit includes an SHS chapter that pairs student volunteers with classmates who suffer from intellectual or developmental disabilities. The idea behind the program is that the two Patriots from divergent backgrounds will build friendships and understanding.
One of the focal points for Best Buddies in 2012-13, head sponsor Lauren Frick said, will be to teach typical students the harm that can come from using “the R word.”
“We’re promoting kids to stop using the words ‘retard’ or ‘retarded,’” Frick said.
The group has two levels of membership for typical students, she said.
Peer buddies are paired with disabled classmates to spend social time together weekly, while associates help organize the group’s field trips and other large-scale activities. Frick, who leads the club with co-sponsors Deanna Warkins and Josh Hjorth, said it is common for buddies and their peers to switch partners during the year, as not every randomly drawn relationship blossoms.
“We can all still be friends, because it’s a friendship club,” she said.
Regardless of who their peer is, most of the participants enjoy simply having someone their own age to spend time with, Frick said.
“Many times, they’re in segregated classes,” she said. “This is their time to be a teenager.”
Interested students who signed up last week will undergo an interview process. The number of volunteers is narrowed to about 75, Frick said, mainly because a group larger than that can be unpleasant for the special-needs participants.