Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Best Buddies goes to prom

Photo by and used with the permission of Stephanie Piggott
Best Buddies gathers for a group photo at last years Best Buddies Prom. This is the clubs second year in the national Best Buddies program that builds connections between special education students and their non-disabled peers.

Prom is a milestone for many high school students— formal clothes, loud music, and large crowds, however, may not be a comfortable environment for everyone. In order to ensure students with special needs at LZHS can still experience high school milestones in a safer environment for their individual needs, Best Buddies club is attending a prom event on March 16th for the students with special needs and other club participants.

“[For our prom, the students] dress up; it’s not as formal as a [typical] prom [though]. I would say [it’s] more like a homecoming attire. There is a DJ and they have dinner for them and there’s           dancing and it’s supervised by sponsors like myself,” Stephanie Piggott, special education teacher and Best Buddies club sponsor, said. 

Sam Elias, junior and Best Buddies member, describes the prom as an opportunity which helps the students with special needs to “fulfill their high school experiences” and is looking forward to attend the prom in March and share this moment with them.

Elias chose to join the Best Buddies program after having joined a chapter organized by his baseball team in middle school.

“I found [that] experience very gratifying and was happy to learn of the Best Buddies program [at LZHS],” Elias said. “I joined this club because it helps [students with special needs] feel a sense of belonging and having a group to be a part of.”

The prom is just one example of an opportunity that Best Buddies offers to students with special needs, to help them experience their high school years to the fullest. Best Buddies is an international organization in which LZHS has a chapter, and it aims to “develop social relationships between students with special needs and their non disabled peers” according to Piggott. 

The Best Buddies International website describes their organization in their mission statement section on their website (see the QR code in the bottom left corner of the page).

“Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD),” said the website. “Our programs empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.”

Though this overall mission is the same throughout all chapters of the Best Buddies organization, each school has their own way of achieving it for their special education students.

“[At Best Buddies, we host] events outside [and inside] the building, [and there are] events through Best Buddies International that students can participate in [on their own],” Piggott said. 

According to Piggott, the prom offers unique opportunities that some of Best Buddies other activities may not, such as further socialization with students, general education and special education alike, outside of District 95.

“Last year it was Lake Zurich High School, Vernon Hills High School, Great Lake Central High School, Libertyville High School and others that participated,” Piggott said. “All of their Best Buddies groups were invited to the event and so the students were able to meet other students, which makes it different from our traditional prom, which typically just hosts [LZ students].”

Along with meeting students from other high schools, Piggott believes another perk of the Best Buddies prom is that it gives students with special needs a chance to attend prom in a digestible form.

“It’s really just time for them to get dressed up to experience prom, because going to the traditional prom might be a little overwhelming because there’s hundreds of students there,” Piggott said. “This is a [much] more controlled environment, maybe a little more comfortable. They have their buddies with them so it makes it a little bit easier.”

Best Buddies members pose for a picture while doing a craft activity in the LZHS Learning HUB. Best Buddies meets once a month for themed meetings and activities to give special education students additional time to socialize with their peers in a comfortable environment. (Photo by and used with the permission of Stephanie Piggott)

Best Buddies meets monthly, and as the buddies (the general education students) outnumber their special needs peers, they will often group together and partake in themed activities, such as writing cards to veterans at the November meeting or creating valentines for the February meeting. Besides the themed meetings, Best Buddies members attend “social events within the building,” such as the prom, according to Piggott. This gives students with special needs an opportunity to participate in school events such as sports games, but in a more comfortable environment for them.

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming attending these events if you’ve never gone to one before, [with] the sheer number of students [that usually attend. When we have a buddy who they’re familiar with attending [alongside] them, they can attend these events and they seem to really enjoy them,” Piggott said. “[In January] we attended the first half of a boys basketball game… [and we’ve] attended a football game [as well], a girl’s game last year and a boy’s game this year.”

While they joined Best Buddies International in the 2022-2023 school year, they have not been able to participate in many new activities other than the prom over the course of both school years. For this reason, Piggott looks forward to the new opportunities that Best Buddies International will offer them in years to come. 

“[Joining the chapter] has definitely opened up more opportunities for the students to [attend] other events [at] other schools for Best Buddies,” Piggott said. “It also allows our current students to hear about this international organization to know that there’s opportunities and activities outside of just the high school Best Buddies chapters.”

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About the Contributor
Sadie Good
Sadie Good, Staff Writer
During her second year on staff, Sadie will continue writing for LZ Life and is looking forward to fulfilling her role of Junior Editor-in-Chief for the Bear Facts Magazine. In addition to journalism, Sadie is involved with the LZHS Literary Magazine; after school, she works at the Fish Market in downtown Lake Zurich. Outside of work and school, she enjoys reading, experimenting with new recipes, and spending time with her loved ones. In the future, Sadie aspires to become an investigative journalist.  

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