Best Buddies is a student organization that works to eliminate discrimination towards people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities by connecting them with UI students to create friendships. The group hopes these friendships will eventually become a natural occurrence, and their organization will no longer be needed. Best Buddies holds events throughout the year, and their members meet with their buddies regularly. We talked with Chloe Hannan, UI student and president of Best Buddies here at the University of Iowa, to learn more about the organization.
Brianna Sudrla: Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you joined Best Buddies.
Chloe Hannan: I’m studying Special Education and I am minoring in Spanish so I guess that kind of goes along with being in Best Buddies. I started Best Buddies when I was in middle school though, and then they had it in my high school too. It’s a lot different in college though because here you’re with adults instead of your peers. So, it was a little different, but I just wanted to keep doing it.
BS: What is the mission of Best Buddies?
CH: That’s a great question! The mission of Best Buddies is to foster friendships between someone who has an intellectual or developmental disability and someone that doesn’t. In middle school and high school that is you and your peers. In college, that’s us and people in the community. The CEO of Best Buddies, at a conference that the leaders from Best Buddies attended, said that his mission is to get rid of Best Buddies. He wants the friendships to be a natural thing that everyone does. Best Buddies also does job coaching, or they help find jobs for people with intellectual disabilities in the community, which I think is really cool.
BS: What age are the people with disabilities that you pair with?
CH: It’s anyone from our age; so people who just graduated high school who are in a transition program, which means they are learning how to cook for themselves, take the bus by themselves, and find a place to live, to all the way up to those who live in a group home who are 60. So you have a wide range and it’s still really easy for people to find things in common with each other. So we still like doing the things that the buddies who are 60 like to do.
BS: What activities does Best Buddies plan over the course of one school year?
CH: So each month the whole club meets together so that everyone can see each other, this is really convenient for college students to get to see their buddies because it’s often hard for them to meet up. This month we will be walking in the homecoming parade, next month we have a potluck, and december is my favorite event, which is our holiday karaoke party. We wear ugly holiday sweaters, eat pizza, and sing karaoke. We have some great singers! In the spring we have a carnival and 5k which we just started 2 years ago and are still working on getting right.
BS: What have you learned from being an active member of Best Buddies?
CH: Best Buddies really shows that everyone needs a friend, someone that they can go to just one person that they can trust. It’s also showed me that even people our age are really selfless, and are willing to put their all into a friendship and are not judgmental. I think that’s really surprising because in college we can all be a little selfish, and it’s refreshing to see all of us come together for something that has nothing to do with us and completely for someone else.
BS: Why do you think it’s important for students here at the University of Iowa to get involved?
CH: I think that it makes you feel like you’re a part of something and that you’re contributing to our community and culture of Iowa. It’s easy to be passive and to not see yourself contributing to anything here. It’s what makes our school unique though, because we all have our special interests, but we all come together to make our interests bigger and more productive.
If you are interested in joining Best Buddies, email Chloe at firstname.lastname@example.org