The San Diego State chapter of Best Buddies is giving students the chance to make long life friendships with the buddies they mentor while tackling the stigma surrounding their mental health.
The worldwide organization, Best Buddies, is aimed at mentoring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities while helping end the stigma surrounding their condition. As members, SDSU students are able to become a social mentor while their buddy gains self-confidence and self-esteem, characteristics that they tend to lack because they are often isolated and excluded because of their disabilities.
The university’s chapter is currently headed by speech, language and hearing sciences junior Julia Moluf, who joined Best Buddies her freshman year of high school and has since continued as a member of Best Buddies at SDSU.
“Best Buddies is changing lives because it shows society how capable, loving and valuable people with disabilities are,” Moluf said. “It has forever changed my life.”
Through a strict application process, members of Best Buddies have the opportunity to become a “peer buddy,” where they are able to form a deeper connection with an intellectually or developmentally disabled member of Best Buddies for greater involvement.
Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences senior and Vice President of Internal Relations for Best Buddies, Haley Brock, said that her experience has been nothing short of great.
“I feel like the most rewarding part was how close I got with John (Brock’s buddy) and his family,” Brock said. “Sometimes I go out to lunch with John and his mom and they are always so sweet to me. We made Christmas cookies last year with his brothers and cousins as well and it was so fun. They really brought me into their family and I never expected to gain so much.”
Brock added that she has formed a deep connection with her buddy John, watching him at his dance practices, and going to baseball games together.
Kinesiology sophomore Kesenah Uribes said she joined Best Buddies because of the strong involvement they have in the community, as each Best Buddies member who is intellectually or developmentally disabled is from the SDSU area.
“In the short time I’ve been in the club, it’s already felt like family,” Uribes said.
For this upcoming year, Moluf said she wants to build on the collaborations that were made with other on-campus organizations from last year but her long term goal is to make Best Buddies a household name. She strives for all students to know who Best Buddies is, what they do and supportive of their mission of creating lifelong friendships, leadership development and job opportunities for people who have an intellectual or developmental disability.
Best Buddies meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Park Boulevard Suite of the Student Union.