Robert E. Lee High School launched a new program to help promote positive friendships throughout the entire student body. Through the national “Best Buddies” program, students learn to build one-to-one friendships with fellow classmates who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“While some students may act or look a little different, at the end of the day we are all Lee Raiders and I want to remind the campus of that,” Austin Doyle, special education teacher at Lee, said. “We just began signing students up for Best Buddies this week and are overwhelmed with the amount of students wanting to participate, which is currently around 40 or so.”
Lee Senior and Best Buddies program vice president Natalie Parnell says she hopes the Best Buddies program will alter perceptions that individuals with special needs are not capable of having friendships or relationships with others.
“We hope the Best Buddies program will show that people with special needs are definitely capable of forming friendships if everyone just took the time to get to know each other,” Natalie said. “We are often taught about inclusion as prevention to bullying-type behaviors, but we also need to learn to extend this inclusion to our special needs friends as well.”
As the program gets started, students are mainly getting to know each other by eating lunch together. However, the first big “Best Buddies Kick-Off” is being planned for October 19 and will be a campus tailgate event to take place after the Homecoming Pep Rally.