Best Buddies Alumni Changing the World
In 2016 Best Buddies, in order to expand its services and mission, launched Best Buddies Alumni Association (BBAA) program to re-engage with former participants. The BBAA mission is focused on developing lifelong mutually beneficial relationships between Best Buddies and its alumni. A place where former volunteers can remain connected and engaged with Best Buddies for life.
This new initiative is a centralized program for former volunteers to create a worldwide network to catch up with old friends, exchange ideas and experiences, create mentorship opportunities between alumni, identify jobs for Best Buddies participants, support the Alumni Fund, and so much more.
Already the BBA has rediscovered and connected with former participants, who are eager and excited to delve back into the Best Buddies mission. Below are the stories of two peer buddies, who fell in love with Best Buddies so dearly that they even pursued professional careers to improve the quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
Rowena Buted from Maui, Hawaii began her journey with Best Buddies in 2008. As an active junior in high school, she was approached by Mike McCormick, a Best Buddies program manager, who asked her to lead the first Best Buddies chapter in Maui at Maui High School.
Buted became chapter president her first year with Best Buddies and attended Leadership Conference (LC) where she taught hula to the buddy ambassadors. Buted is currently a program manager for Best Buddies in Las Vegas, Nevada, a career she chose based on her positive experiences within the friendship program.
When asked what Best Buddies means to her, Buted said “A world of never-ending friendships and laughs. A place to learn. A place where you want to be.” Her advice to students who are considering joining Best Buddies is, “Take the plunge! Get out of your comfort zone. Take time to learn. Make an impact!” She continued by stating that the Best Buddies Alumni Association is a great opportunity for former Best Buddies participants to come together and continue those lifelong friendships.
Like Buted, Samantha Poyser was also inspired to pursue a career that would advance the inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities from her experiences within Best Buddies. She is currently a student at the University of California Santa Barbara pursing her PhD with a specialization in Special Education.
Poyser first participated in Best Buddies her freshman year of High School in Napa, California. She enjoyed the Best Buddies Friendship program so much that she continued her involvement with Best Buddies at UC Santa Barbara as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student.
When asked what advice she has for any student considering joining Best Buddies, Poyser recommends prospective volunteers ‘give it a try’, ‘take the time’, and see it ‘through’! At first she was apprehensive about joining the program, she questioned herself. ‘Will I do a good job? Will we get along?’ She worried.
However, she decided to allow herself the time and opportunity to see it through, and it changed her life! Poyser said her experience has directly influenced where she is today. As a long time Best Buddies participant, she was inspired by the Best Buddies message of inclusiveness and looks forward to applying that same model into her field of study.
Best Buddies alumni are deeply affected by the mission of inclusion and social change, the goals resonate deeply in their hearts years after their initial involvement. As the two wonderful examples above demonstrate, Best Buddies alumni are doing great things with their lives and for the disability rights movement. As the BBAA program expands, we will see even more great contributions from the incredible individuals who have been drawn to Best Buddies.
To learn more and get involved with the Best Buddies Alumni Association, click here.