Best Buddies is a growing worldwide, non-profit organization that allows students to get to know someone with an intellectual disability on a one-to-one basis.
FSU and FAMU both offer this program. Unfortunately, FSU may not have the program for long, due to its unreliable members.
The chapter at FSU was founded in 1991, but the FSU Best Buddies program has always had issues with getting members.
“Students can be uncomfortable with situations that they are not familiar with,” said Heather Cobb, FSU president of Best Buddies.
She said FSU had its first meeting for the club in the beginning of the fall semester. Students seemed eager to learn about the club and how they could become involved, however, once it came time to actually participate, the number of members began to drop.
Students are told from the beginning what the club entails and are paired up with a buddy from the Gretchen Everhart School, a local Tallahassee school for intellectually disabled students.
Members are required to interact with their buddy once a month, either through e-mail, phone calls, or planned visits. Many times Best Buddies participants assume that being involved in Best Buddies involves spending money on their buddy that they don’t have.
“Members of the club are encouraged to include their buddy whenever they have some free time. Even allowing their buddy to come along with them to the grocery store can be something fun for the member and their buddy,” said Erin Ramsey, vice president of Best Buddies.
The officers of Best Buddies believe one reason students have a hard time keeping up with the club is because of scheduling. Most of the Gretchen Everhart students are able to meet in the early afternoon or early evening when many students have classes.
Officials also said students seem to lose their interest with the club, which creates a problem because if a student quits interacting with their buddy, the buddy may become disappointed.
“When members stop visiting their buddy, they immediately affect another person. What some members don’t understand is that the buddies are more sensitive than they are and they actually take it personally. They feel like they are being abandoned,” Ramsey said.
The FSU chapter of Best Buddies has had problems with the parents from Gretchen Everhart, because many of the parents are hesitant to allow their children to get hurt by the other students. Best Buddies worries that if this continues to happen, the program may not be asked back to the school.
While there are many members who fade out in the middle of the semester, there are some dedicated members who do interact with their buddy as much as possible.
“We want people to be exposed to what the club is. I think once they see it and like it, they will want to become involved,” Cobb said.
Contact Amy Perrone at email@example.com.