Best Buddies creates lifelong friendships


It’s common for students to join a campus organization to meet new friends, but some students on campus are broadening their horizons to create connections in the community.

Best Buddies is an organization that partners students with adults who have disabilities to create friendships.


President of Best Buddies, junior Sarah Ouzounian said they introduce the students to the buddies, and the friendships grow from there.

“The goal is to be lifelong friends,” she said.

Ouzounian has had the same buddy all three years since she has been involved with the organization.

“I’m so glad we’ve been friends the past three years,” Ouzounian said. “She’s honestly what keeps me wanting to make this organization something on campus.”

Ouzounian said all of the buddies in the organization are genuine, spirited people, and her buddy thinks of her as her best friend.

Best Buddies partners with St. Coletta group homes in Jefferson, Wis., where Best Buddies International has its roots.  Rose Kennedy was a resident at St. Coletta.  Her relative, Anthony Shriver, had a history of philanthropy like the rest of his family.  He wanted Kennedy to have friends while she was there, so he started Best Buddies International.

There are now over 1,000 chapters of Best Buddies found at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the U.S.

UW-Whitewater’s chapter has about 40 students paired with over 30 buddies.

Ouzounian said the friendships happen on their own.  All the students need to do is call and spend time with their buddies.

“[You do] what you would do with any friendship,” Ouzounian said. She and her buddy play board games, go out to dinner and go to movies.


“In reality, they don’t care what you do,” Finance Coordinator Sara Watkins said.  “You can tell they cherish the friendship so much.”

Watkins is a junior and has also had the same buddy since she joined the organization three years ago.

Watkins said she believes she and Ouzounian lucked out with their buddies, and they are grateful for the experiences the organization has provided them.

“If it wasn’t for Best Buddies, I never would have met [my buddy],” Ouzounian said.

Students don’t have to be special education majors to join Best Buddies.  Ouzounian said there are currently accounting, social work, psychology and English majors taking part in the student organization.

“I really like having college students come in and being placed in a situation that they may necessarily not be 100 percent comfortable in, and then, they come to an event, and they realize, ‘this isn’t as uncomfortable as I may have thought,’” Watkins said. “They drop a lot of previous generalizations they have about individuals with disabilities.”

Dropping these stereotypes opens up many opportunities, she added.

Watkins said all of the buddies make her happy because they are such genuine people.

Ouzounian said the friendship she shares with her buddy is the best part about the organization.

“That’s what keeps me in it,” she said.  “That’s really all I care about in it.”