Best Buddies as a Life-Long Journey
Organization-wide, Best Buddies has the goal of supporting life-long friendships. We strive to include participants of all ages and support sustainable relationships that inspire change and enrich lives. For Maya Meade and Allison Bartholow, Best Buddies has been a guiding light throughout their education. Their outstanding student leadership has helped drive our mission of inclusion forward in Ohio and fulfilled our goal of supporting our communities at each educational milestone.
The power of friendship lives in Allison’s story, as she was encouraged to join Best Buddies by a friend when she started at Pickerington North High School. Allison became their Chapter President, and when it was time for her to go to college, she knew she could not leave Best Buddies behind. Allison got involved in Best Buddies right away at Bowling Green State University and now serves as their Chapter President.
“It made me more outgoing,” Allison said, “with that, you’re able to have these open conversations with people that may not know about inclusion and life-long friendships and are you’re able to inform them.”
Allison added, “For example, at Campus Fest, I’m normally pretty shy, but I was just talking to all these people like ‘join Best Buddies!’ and I realized if I weren’t at this table with Best Buddies, I wouldn’t be doing this right now.”
Maya found her community by making it. As a freshman at Talawanda High School, Maya helped get Best Buddies started with inspiration and collaboration from the Miami University Chapter and served as their Chapter President for three years. When she went to Ohio University, she saw a gap in inclusion. She was confident in herself and our cause and knew exactly what to do. Maya started another Friendship Chapter at Ohio University and serves as their Chapter President.
Reflecting on her history of student involvement, Maya said, “Best Buddies was the first real leadership position I ever had and it kind of sparked something inside of me where I just wanted to be a leader anywhere that I could help.”
Experiencing Best Buddies not only fosters leadership development but also instills students with positive values. When asked why inclusion matters to them, they both had a lot to say.
For Maya, it was never a question if she would carry an attitude of inclusion. She says, “I’ve just always felt that there was no reason why anyone’s differences should get in the way of being able to have a friendship or being able to coexist or experience things together.”
Maya affirms that this is a cause we can all relate to, saying, “No one wants to feel isolated, and anyone who ever has should understand how important it is when someone does include you.”
An attitude of inclusion does not go unnoticed. Maya describes Best Buddies as a place where “you can acknowledge the differences you might have but then find the things you do have in common because you find that people always have more things in common than they think.”
Allison agrees, adding, “Best Buddies creates this environment where everyone is able just to be their authentic selves, and there’s no fear of judgment.”
Finally, we asked Maya and Allison if they have any advice for other young people in Best Buddies. Both women shared the attitude that it is hardly a question of whether people will stay involved, feeling that it is almost an inevitable outcome.
“Know that you are making the difference,” Allison said. “Signing up for Best Buddies leads you to many different opportunities to be a part of; it opened up this entire world which I wouldn’t have known about.”
At Best Buddies, we work to ensure that as many people as possible know about the world of inclusion. Our programs apply to everyone and create community wherever they are found, thanks to our incredible leaders. We are so grateful for Maya and Allison’s dedication to Best Buddies and our mission of inclusion.