Best Buddies welcomes inclusive and lifelong friendships for all students

Best+Buddies+welcomed+prospective+members+with+ice+cream+and+cookies+during+their+first+meeting+of+the+fall+semester+on+Wednesday+Sept.+8.

Best Buddies welcomed prospective members with ice cream and cookies during their first meeting of the fall semester on Wednesday Sept. 8.

by Ryan Hardison, Arts & Culture Editor

College can be an isolating experience at times, and with so many tasks and obligations, it’s hard to find the time to make new friends. SDSU Best Buddies hopes to solve that problem for students. 

SDSU Best Buddies is a club that pairs college students into one-to-one friendships with students who have developmental and intellectual disabilities to create a fun community that hangs out every week. 

They are a chapter of Best Buddies International, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1989 and they’re intent on creating one-on-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The SDSU chapter has only been around since 2013 but has been considerably successful. 

One member of the club is first-year city planning graduate student Wesley Cooksy, who has been part of Best Buddies since 2018. Cooksy recently passed his certification and completed training with Best Buddies International to become a State Ambassador. This means he’ll serve a two-year term where he gets to represent the organization. 

Cooksy said Best Buddies presents a peaceful space for any student who might be wary of other areas of social life at SDSU.  

“If you’re intimidated by the sports life culture or Greek life culture, this is an opportunity for you to still feel connected with campus,” Cooksy said.

Though being assigned duties as part of the club may sound stressful, Cooksy says that the amount of “work” for the club is pretty simple and extremely beneficial, and has helped him learn a lot about other club members. 

“There’s a requirement that every week you try to find time to meet with that buddy and just talk, there’s no special questionnaires or anything, it’s just meet up and talk,” Cooksy said. 

Morgan Hughes, a junior studying business management and minoring in statistics, has been a part of Best Buddies since the second semester of her freshman year. She now serves as the club’s Vice President of Internal Affairs.

Hughes describes Best Buddies as a friendship club that’s open to anybody. She says the buddies’ smiling faces always help to lift her up on bad days and provide a welcoming environment built on friendship and acceptance. 

One of the ways these friendships are forged is through the club’s yearly match party where members are paired up to become close pals.

“One of the best parts of being in the club is that when you join you get a one-on-one friendship with one of the buddies,” Hughes said. “We look through your interests and we have this surprise match party where you get paired with a buddy so we’re thinking of some fun things to do to make it exciting for everybody.”

Last year, like all clubs on campus, Best Buddies had to meet using Zoom. Still, they managed to make it work. They sent out weekly newsletters and kept members engaged through social media, and organized activities like karaoke and Kahoot planned as well as a theme for each Zoom meeting. Through their persistence, Best Buddies maintained an average of 60 to 80 members who attended weekly. 

Paige Oberg is a fourth-year nursing student who joined Best Buddies her freshman year because she was inspired by the club’s inclusion aspect. Now as club president, Oberg hopes to keep Best Buddies just as approachable. Oberg says one of the reasons Zoom effectively worked is because they gave buddies who may have social anxiety or are more on the quiet side the opportunity to tune in and out when needed.

“When somebody struggles with sensory issues it can be hard to be in person, whereas being online gives them the option to find their safe space or the safe stimulation that they need in their home,” Oberg said. “The ability to go on mute if they’re on Zoom actually went really well because we had a lot of buddies who wouldn’t normally come to in-person events come into our Zoom meetings.”

In her leadership, Oberg stresses the importance of having friends with different abilities than yourself, something which she says is not discussed nearly enough. She also believes that the friendships made as part of the club have the strength to last a lifetime. 

“My favorite part about Best Buddies is the depth of friendship that it creates. In college I think that most of us come in looking for friendships that are going to last a lifetime and I don’t think that Best Buddies is an exception to that,” Oberg said. “A lot of the buddies that I’ve met all of them are going to be lifelong friends of mine and lifelong friends with each other.”

Best Buddies have a lot planned for the 2021-22 school year. Sept. 29 is their annual match party event where students and peer buddies are connected with regular attending members. Follow their Instagram @sdsu_bestbuddies for more updates.

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