We all know how grueling and challenging it can be to make new friends in college without the fear of judgment, but there may be an easy and less stressful way to make the lifelong relationships everyone dreams about.
Best Buddies is an international organization and club at the University of Northern Colorado that pairs up college students with adults who have an intellectual and/or physical disability. Any adult 21 years or older who is out of the high school transition program, and who has a disability is offered the opportunity to join the club alongside all college students.
An intellectual disability is a term used to describe someone who has limitations in mental functioning. Some of the disabilities that may be found in Best Buddies include the following: Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The main goal of Best Buddies is to create one-on-one relationships with people from and around the same community. No matter what disability someone may have, they are always welcomed with open arms that hold no judgment.
“They’re not being judged by us,” said junior Michelle Bruning, co-president of the club. “They can dance on the dance floor and dance their heart out and we would not care.”
Bruning is a transfer student from Chadron State College in Nebraska. She is studying for a generalist’s degree in special education at UNC. Growing up with a brother who has a disability and working as a teacher cadet in high school, Bruning had a hunch that special education was her calling. Bruning, like many college students, found it hard to make friends when she transferred to UNC.
“I knew I kind of needed something to keep me here,” Bruning said. “So I found Best Buddies, and I just fell in love.”
Bruning describes the club as being just like one big family.
“We are always there for each other,” Bruning said. “They’re my brothers and sisters. They’re not my buddies.”
Senior Mackenzie Lincoln, co-president of Best Buddies and elementary education major, was at the UNC club fair when a sign labeled “Best Buddies” caught her attention. After investigating, she decided to join the club to accent her minor in special education. Best Buddies has impacted her life in many ways.
“It has made me really grateful for what I have and the people I surround myself with,” Lincoln said. “I want to make sure I am very inclusive, and I really want good people around me, and, through this club, I just have the best people around me.”
Because Best Buddies does not receive any funding through UNC, the club relies heavily on fundraisers and donations. All of the money received by the club goes towards supplies and food for events. On one Sunday of each month, the club holds some sort of an event. You can find information about upcoming events on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Some of the events held by the club include: Friendsgiving, Halloween party, prom, fundraisers.
The club usually meets on the UNC campus once a month to discuss future events and fundraisers. Joining the club is simple. All you need to do is email one of the co-presidents and fill out some information. Best Buddies is short on college students this year and welcomes anyone who wants to join.
“If you just have an interest in making friends and kind of creating a family while you’re at school,” Bruning said. “I would say you can come and just check out the club…We appreciate anyone who comes to join us.”