Saint Rose Best Buddies, a student group that offers social activities and friendship to those both with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, received the outstanding chapter award for the state of New York at the annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference in July.
Best Buddies is an international organization that operates at colleges, middle schools, and high schools. The Saint Rose chapter is the oldest college chapter in New York and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The chapter has about 50 members, or 25 buddy pairs, who participate in at least one social activity a month, from pizza and holiday parties to talent shows and karaoke.
Saint Rose works with students in the College Experience program, which gives young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities the opportunity to practice living independently, making friends, interning at area businesses, and becoming part of a diverse campus community. This year, Saint Rose Best Buddies also will pair up with students ages 18 to 21 from the Bethlehem Central Schools. In addition to social events, the buddies are active in fundraising, including the Friendship Ball and Friendship Walk.
“To me I am not helping the buddies, they’re helping me,” said Amanda Schafer, a communication sciences and disorders major from Auburn, New York, and chapter president. “They have taught me so much in the three years that I have been involved with the chapter, so much more than I could have taught them. They have made me a more outgoing person. They have shown me compassion for others and acceptance. No matter how their day is going, they are so loving and kind to everyone they see. When I’m walking on campus and they see me, the way their faces light up with just pure love and friendship is something that always makes my day. I know that if I am ever having a bad day they are people I can turn to.”
The international conference where the chapter received the award brought together 2,200 students from throughout the world for three days at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. This is the first time Saint Rose was recognized as an outstanding chapter.
Schafer became involved with Best Buddies as a first-year student after seeing information about the group at a club fair on campus. Now a senior/graduate student, she’s the one sharing the benefits of Best Buddies with students who are new to Saint Rose.
“If people took the time to sit down with these amazing human beings, they would see how much love and acceptance the world has to offer,” she said. “I always say that once you spend time at one of our events or with our buddies, you’ll want to be a part of what we’re doing.”