Best Buddies to create community friendships

Vanessa Alvarado

Making friends in college can sometimes be a difficult task, but a new organization on campus may be able to that process easier.

The new organization, Best Buddies College, is a denomination of the non-profit organization Best Buddies International that pairs each volunteer with a buddy who has an intellectual or developmental disability in order to foster friendship and mentorship, according to the organization’s website.

College chapters of the organization collaborate with nearby group homes, “providing them with a chance to be involved with the community since these adults are generally abandoned by family and have difficulties getting careers,” according to Loyola’s Best Buddies OrgSync page.

Abigail Perez, biology junior and president of Loyola’s Best Buddies chapter, was inspired to create a Loyola chapter because of her prior experience working with the international organization. She first got involved with Best Buddies International in high school and is excited to open a student-run chapter in the university setting.

A chapter of Best Buddies previously existed at Tulane but was closed because the organization thought Loyola’s culture would be a better fit, according to Perez. She said the inclusive and social justice oriented nature of Loyola will make the organization feel at home.

“Everyone’s super inviting about things like this and are always making an effort towards inclusion and making equality for different people,” Perez said.

Perez said that the inclusion of people of all ability levels is important, especially at a Jesuit institution like Loyola.

“The whole Ignatian thing is being a person for others. I think the community of people with disabilities is easy to forget about and it’s very easy to have these stereotypes and stigmas against them. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to create a vision where the people aren’t identified by their disability but the disabilities are just a part of them, it’s not them completely.” Perez said.

Perez said that many people with disabilities do not get opportunities to interact with people outside of their own communities which is why she is excited about the Best Buddies program. Many adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities find themselves to be socially isolated, according to Best Buddies International’s website.

“They’re just people like anybody else and they just want to have a good time and build these friendships,” Perez said.

Best Buddies pushes participants outside of their comfort zones and allows them to form relationships they would never have before, according to Perez.

“Yes, you might be uncomfortable, but you’ll really learn things about yourself and learn things that will inspire you about other people,” Perez said.