The registered student organization Best Buddies teaches students the importance of developing friendships and connections within the community.
Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that allows students to form friendships and connections with those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
East Lansing sophomore Maddie Piotter is in her second year as the PR officer for the RSO. She said it is part of a larger organization that works nationally to promote a global volunteer movement that emphasizes friendship, integrated employment and leadership development for people with disabilities.
“We work with members of the Mount Pleasant community to form friendships with them,” she said. “We’re working with a lot of assisted living homes.”
Best Buddies holds meetings once a month. Outside of meetings, members are required to hang out with their buddies two times a month and talk to them every week.
“We plan huge group activities to do with our buddies,” Piotter said. ”We’ve had Halloween parties, Thanksgiving potlucks and Valentine’s Day parties. We usually go to the movies, dinner, bowling, the park or over to their housing place.”
When students first join the RSO, they are interviewed and a profile is created for them.
“The interview questions are just about why they joined, what they want to get out of it, if they have had any experience, do they have a car, what are their hobbies, and so on,” Piotter said.
From there, the profiles are taken to the group homes and matched by who will fit best with whom based on shared interests and the different needs of the individuals involved.
Grand Rapids senior Amber Schwennesen is the treasurer for the RSO and plans a lot of fundraising for the club.
“Best Buddies is a non-profit, so we have to fundraise all our money, and I work to make that happen,” she said.
Schwennesen loves the fact that the RSO gives back to the community.
“I really like being involved with the special education population. It gives college students the opportunity to develop a relationship with someone that’s really rewarding,” she said.
Dundee junior Grace Gimesky, the president of the RSO, said the club has taught her the importance of relationships.
“It shows me what a role friendship plays in our lives,” she said.