St. Mary’s gained a new club this past month, a chapter of Best Buddies. Best Buddies is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement to foster relationships between the community and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Best Buddies college chapter pairs people with IDD in a one-to-one friendship with college students. St. Mary’s own Best Buddies club just became a Student Government Association (SGA) sanctioned group thanks to the leadership of the six founding members and the support of our campus community.
As a club, Best Buddies is matching St. Mary’s students up with buddies with IDD from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Leonardtown Campus. These one-to-one relationships will enable St. Mary’s students to connect with their buddies on a deep level. The club will be hosting two entire club events and also requires St. Mary’s students to contact their buddies at least once a week.
Co-presidents, juniors Nadda Warshanna and Nicole Jackson, could not be more excited about the club’s momentum. Warshanna and Jackson independently started a Best Buddies chapter last year. When they realized their shared goal, they pulled resources and friends together to start the club this year. Vice President, senior Tira Valkanas was involved in Best Buddies at her high school and works with the Howard County Parks and Recreation inclusion program, so getting involved with SMCM’s Best Buddies chapter just made sense. “I love it,” says Valkanas, “I love being involved with this group.”
Best Buddies Secretary, sophomore Katelyn Kean participated in Best Buddies during high school. Kean says, “Our campus community is so diverse in the types and numbers of clubs we have, I was so surprised that we did not have this club on campus yet.” The desire to be involved with Best Buddies motivated Kean to become an additional founding member. Ben Baker, senior, is the host-site coordinator for the club. Baker is the liaison between the SMCM club and the affiliated program at CSM Leonardtown campus.
Jake Wohl, treasurer of Best Buddies and SMCM junior, got involved because his brother has an IDD. “Of all the things I have done in college, I’m most proud of this because it directly gives my brother an opportunity to find friendship,” says Wohl. With dedication and leadership like this, the St. Mary’s Best Buddies chapter is off to a strong start.
The Best Buddies Executive Board encourages the campus community to get involved by coming to club events and meetings.
The club already has plans for the rest of semester including the Best Buddies Fall Festival on Friday, Oct. 25, from 3:00-5:30 p.m. This new club has already achieved so much and with state and international support from the Best Buddies organization, our St. Mary’s Best Buddies chapter will continue to grow.