Pond Elementary has become the first elementary school in Missouri to establish a Best Buddies chapter. Best Buddies is a program that offers one-to-one friendship and leadership development designed to positively impact students with and without disabilities. Organizers of Best Buddies-Missouri say the organization is a network of more than 100,000 friends across America.
By establishing a chapter at Pond, Best Buddy organizers will be asking participants to regularly spend time with other “buddies,” and to get together for group activities. Pond Principal Dr. Carlos Diaz-Granados explained why he wanted Pond to partner with Best Buddies.
“It just fits in so well with our character education programming, helping to instill those qualities we want our students to grow up with,” Diaz-Granados said.
Rebecca Flieg is a Pond parent who helped bring the program to her daughter’s school.
“My daughter is a first-grader with a rare disease, and I’m witnessing how difficult it is to grow and maintain friendships when there are special needs involved,” said Flieg. “When I heard how Best Buddies creates a space to form those friendships, guides them and fosters them, I immediately wanted this program at Pond. It’s hard and can be uncomfortable to be friends with someone who can’t talk or is different, but Best Buddies has the potential to help kids get past the awkwardness and learn a great life skill of finding commonality with anyone.”
Eureka High student Maddy Neil started a Best Buddies chapter at her school just over a year ago.
“I hope kids at this age level realize that everyone is the same, whether you have a disability or not,” said Neil. “We have more than 90 members in our chapter now and in our community, it’s all-inclusive.”
The Pond Best Buddies Chapter had its first event – movie night at Ballpark Village – on March 28, where the kids watched “Ferdinand.” A Friendship Walk scheduled for April 21 also is in the works.