Best Buddies: Forming Forever Friendships

During+the+November+meeting%2C+club+members+made+paper+turkeys+in+celebration+of+Thanksgiving.

Courtesy of Mia Aguilar

During the November meeting, club members made paper turkeys in celebration of Thanksgiving.

Lorena Acevedo, Staff Writer

While Coral Gables Senior High fosters academic growth it is also a place that encourages students to try new things, explore their passions and in the case of the Best Buddies club, create meaningful and fulfilling friendships.

Taking into consideration that close companions are what makes the high school experience worthwhile, Best Buddies creates a safe space for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities to socialize and form long-lasting relationships with those around them.

The program couples students in a ‘Buddy System’, where pairs are assigned by the club presidents. Students are linked based on their shared interests and hobbies and stay with their buddy for a year or until one member’s time in the club or at Gables ends.

In addition to the Buddy System, monthly meetings are scheduled regularly for students to interact and participate in activities together such as arts and crafts or karaoke. The club usually meets virtually and meetings are held mostly through Zoom.

People have a misunderstanding of best buddies. They mainly think, yeah well, you help a student with a disability but it is much more. You make a friend, you help them gain confidence, you sit there with them and make them laugh, you make each other laugh. It’s a stress-free club,”

— sophomore Mia Aguilar

“I love going to every meeting and seeing the students smile and be so full of laughter, seeing how excited they are to participate in our meetings always warms my heart,” sophomore Mia Aguilar said.

Best Buddies is a full-time commitment, as the club strives to establish relationships between two buddies where they can both feel cared for and heard. For students with IDD who do not spend a lot of time away from the classroom, Best Buddies can be one of the special moments they get to talk to other students and enjoy themselves.

The club’s main priority, through a relationship with their buddy, is to teach those with IDD that no one should be alone.

“It’s really about the friendships, it’s about building real friendships like a lot of teenagers have and take for granted because they don’t realize some people can’t make friends,” Ms. Camacho said.

Club members work to build a community for students with IDD that can ultimately help them feel safer and more comfortable at Gables. Whether that means walking their buddy to class, helping them with schoolwork or listening to them vent, the members’ objective is to care for their buddy and build a friendship with them.

Best Buddies is beneficial for all students involved, not just those with IDD. Having a space to unwind with friends can help all members stay positive and take care of their mental health.

“I think Best Buddies helps students involved because there might be students with disabilities that might not feel very safe so the club absolutely helps them feel safer and more comfortable at the school,” freshman Kassandra Mesa said.

In the future, Best Buddies hopes to get things back to the way they were pre-pandemic, with in-person meetings and more activities where members can interact and connect with each other. Making sure nobody is left out as a Cavalier, Best Buddies is making high school unforgettable one buddy at a time.