Schools Become Best Buddies

Best Buddies Hawaii operates on a simple mantra: Everyone deserves an opportunity. Four West Oahu schools are on board with BBH this fall to help students with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) seize those chances.

According to program manager Elizabeth Torres, BBH focuses on helping those with IDDs succeed by way of “one-to-one connections and inclusion within the school system.”

It boils down to friendship. BBH is in nine locations across Oahu, including Kapolei Middle School and Kapolei, Aiea and Pearl City high schools. At each school, student-run chapters of BBH foster friendships between special education students and their peers. There’s a big group activity every month, but individual student pairs also meet every week, sometimes writing emails back and forth, or even just grabbing a bite to eat on campus.

Torres praised the efforts of West Oahu schools in the Best Buddies program. Last year, Pearl City High School hosted a club fair with games, prizes and more for Best Buddies participants, while Aiea High School took all of their members to Waikiki Aquarium for a day. Kapolei High School’s chapter is known for its bimonthly off-campus bowling excursions, as well as its cookie decorating, friendship-bead bracelet making and more on school grounds.

These little activities are important, Torres said, because there’s still a long way to go before students with IDDs are on par with their peers.

“There is still bullying that exists within our school system. Our schools are simply not inclusive. We have our special education students, or people with disabilities, still within their own classroom communities. They’re not integrated in any way, or provided a chance to do that.

“I think Best Buddies allows that chance,” Torres said.

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