Buddy Project joins Best Buddies


Photo by Stephanie Piggott

This year, the Buddy Project helped out with the “Under the Sea” homecoming decorations

The Buddy Project at Lake Zurich High School is being integrated into the Best Buddies Organization, a national program with similar goals that transcends all levels of education, in order to expand the opportunities offered by the club.

“The Buddy Project helps students with IDD (Intellectual and Development Disorders) create friendships with non-disabled peers to provide some social opportunities, to provide some time for them to get to know each other,” Stephanie Piggott, Special Education Teacher and Buddy Project Sponsor, said. “Dr. Lauren McArdle, the assistant superintendent, reached out to me, and was looking to have our Buddy Project join Best Buddies and become a ‘chapter’ (a Best Buddies program at a specific school or location) because a lot of high schools have chapters.”

According to Piggott, Best Buddies Organization may allow Best Buddies members to interact with students at other schools, whereas the Buddy Project rarely leaves Lake Zurich.

“[Since] Best Buddies is a national organization, it allows for a lot more opportunities,” Piggott said. “Our Lake Zurich chapter [will be able to] meet up with a Stevenson chapter or a Mundelein chapter and we can do social activities between schools so that offers an extra benefit of joining Best Buddies.”

“It’s a nice change. [Buddy Project] has been around for many years, and now we’re getting to expand it,” Ella Knight, junior and Buddy Project leader, said. “Being part of [Best Buddies] would make it [easier] for us to go other places and collaborate with other schools.”

Best Buddies also focuses more on one-to-one friendships within the club itself, rather than interactions within a large group.

“I think that a one to one connection is a lot more helpful for [students with IDD] because they get to show their personalities instead of just meeting a bunch of different people, which can be overwhelming at times,” Gracie Potts, junior and Buddy Project leader, said.

The Buddy Project’s transition into Best Buddies began this semester, but most of the process will take place next semester, although it will retain its name until the end of the school year. While this transition has already begun, it will likely be a slow process.

“With Buddy Project meetings, different groups of people attend different meetings, it can be inconsistent, so I think it might be kind of hard to determine one to one connections,” Potts said.
Additionally, Buddy Project members had to register for Best Buddies online, where they can sign up for volunteer opportunities, but according to Piggott, “it was a short application.”

While the transition may take some time, Knight says that Best Buddies will provide “an [exciting] new opportunity for our club to expand, and new chances for [Buddy Project members] to experience new things.”