Best Buddies International Hosts Historic First HBCU Accessibility and Inclusion Symposium
Miami, FL, Dec. 14, 2023 — Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for friendship, employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), hosted its first annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Accessibility (HBCU) and Inclusion Symposium on Sept. 14, 2023.
Nearly 200 participants from HBCUs and MSIs attended the symposium. Attendees discussed the best methods to create a more inclusive culture on HBCU and MSI campuses to support students with IDD.
“The inaugural symposium was a resounding success thanks to the incredible contributions of our presenters, staff, volunteers, leaders and community members,” Joseph Canty, the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Best Buddies International, said. “Partnering with HBCUs and MSIs provides an opportunity for us to raise awareness about students with IDD to reduce stigmas, increase acceptance and support capacity building on these campuses to create more inclusive communities. As a parent of a child with IDD, HBCU grad and educator, it was an honor to moderate the panels for this symposium.”
The day started with special presentations from Best Buddies Ambassadors and industry and educational trailblazers. These leaders also led panel discussions on accessible campuses, capacity building, workforce diversity, identities and disabilities, student leadership and more.
“Being able to discuss the work of diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues from around the world was wonderful,” Kevin Maxwell, the accessibility coordinator at North Carolina A&T State University, said. “I left with ideas that will be useful to my institution as the IDD community grows.”
The symposium also featured student-led panels on career and community service opportunities that focus on building inclusive social and workplace environments. Attendees engaged in group discussions with university and industry professionals to address broader community issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
“Conversations like those held at the symposium are necessary,” TaNia McClary, the chapter president at North Carolina A&T State University, said. “I really enjoyed my experience as a student volunteer.”
The incredible success of the symposium marks a significant achievement for Best Buddies in significantly expanding programmatic awareness to HBCUs and MSIs.
“This symposium has shown us the power of collaboration and the genuine desire to create a more inclusive world,” Canty said. “I extend my heartfelt thanks to all who participated and look forward to the continued collaboration and progress that will result from this event.”
The full list of panelists and speakers included:
- Dr. Paris Adon, Director of the Office of Student Services at Howard University
- Chauncy Barnhill, Senior Vice President of Operations at Wells Fargo
- Dr. Tierny Bates, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at University of South Carolina Upstate
- Paul Brooks Jr., Global Ambassador and member of Young Leaders Council at Best Buddies International
- Joseph Canty, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Best Buddies International
- Andrew Dixon, Global Ambassador at Best Buddies International
- Dr. M. Evelyn Fields, Dean of the College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences at South Carolina State University
- Grace (Qi) Hu, Accommodation and Service Coordinator at Adelphi University
- Dr. Ann Knettler, Vice President of Educational Leadership at Delaware State University
- JaQuelle Lainez, Student Volunteer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- Vanessa LeCorps, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at the Zuckerman Institute
- Zion Mayo, Student volunteer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- Kevin Maxwell, Accessibility Coordinator at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- TaNia McClary, Student volunteer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- Matisse Lee, Senior Associate Director of Athletics at Claflin University
- Alex Mrakovich, Deputy Director of the Best Buddies Jobs program at Best Buddies International
- Dakari Nash, Student volunteer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
- Vanessa Ocana, Member of the Young Leaders Council at Best Buddies International
- Jacob Pasternack, Manager of Communications and Marketing at Best Buddies International
- Doug Peters, Senior Programs Manager at Best Buddies Georgia
- Boris “Bluz” Rodgers, Three-time Emmy-Winning Spoken Word Artist and the Director of Engagement at Blumenthal Performing Arts
- David Quilleon, Senior Vice President of Global Mission, State Development and Operations at Best Buddies International
- Liz Wolford, Director of Mission Operations at Best Buddies International
- Dr. Arber Winn Jr., Director of Disability Services at Clark Atlanta University
About Best Buddies
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to nearly 3,000 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ 11 formal programs — Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies®, Jobs, Ambassadors, Promoters, Transitions and Inclusive Living— engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 49 countries, positively impacting the lives of nearly one million people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org or connect with us via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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