Photo by Angelina Hicks
When Mrs. Adriana Pehl served as an elementary school student-teacher a few months before graduating college, she discovered her passion of working with disabled youth and changed her college focus from elementary school education to special education, adding an extra year onto her schooling.
“I ended up working at a couple of schools before I came across CCHS looking for an Options teacher,” Mrs. Pehl said. “Curious about the position and the school, I came in for the interview. Immediately I fell in love with the position, the school, and the staff. Four years later, I am here absolutely loving my job.
“I wake up every morning, and I look forward to coming to work to see my students, mentors, and friends.”
In order to facilitate a greater inclusive and accepting community, the Options program, created in 2014, will implement this year a CCHS chapter of Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships for disabled children and teenagers.
“We have been contemplating this idea for a while now, as this is a valuable experience for both our Options students who will be our buddies,” Best Buddies vice president Jenny DeSantis ‘19 said. “We decided to create a chapter here at CCHS in order to socialize our students, as well as provide valuable experiences for our school to learn about students with intellectual disabilities.”
Last Thursday, the Best Buddies team hosted an introductory mixer, where students interested in the program met and interacted with disabled students in preparation for a match party, an event where mentors and mentee friendships will be officially created, in the Guadalupe Theatre on Feb. 11.
“We had a really good turn out at the mixer,” events coordinator Alicia Morales ‘19 said. “We just want all the buddies to feel comfortable and excited to be a part of something positive in their lives.”
Options and Best Buddies, although related, are vastly different. While Options is an on-campus program dedicated to aiding students with educational abilities, Best Buddies is an international organization with a goal to create lasting friendships between disabled students and typical peers.
Best Buddies members will focus on relationships off campus, including activities after school or on the weekends. Although many Best Buddies mentors also serve as Options mentors, involvement in both activities is not required.
“This club is open to all interested students, not just mentors,” Mrs. Pehl said. “Anyone can join, so it is not limited to upperclassmen. It will be a great way to get to know our Options students and a great way to build relationships that will last.”
Best Buddies, able to offer a wide variety of off-campus events the Options program cannot, will provide mentor and mentees with opportunities to form deeper friendships.
“Best Buddies will allow us new ways to socialize and hold events with our Options students outside of school in organized and safe environments,” Best Buddies president Holden Brosnan ‘20 said. “We will be holding events ranging from charity walks to simply taking a group trip to the movies.
“We just want our students to be happy and have fun at all events, experience real life social situations, be safe, and create friendships and memories that are everlasting.”
Any students interested in Best Buddies should visit bestbuddiesonline.org for more information and reach out to Mrs. Pehl in Drexel Hall 108 with any questions.
“I hope that Best Buddies will allow for students to meet individuals with intellectual disabilities and realize how amazing these students are,” DeSantis said. “Our options students each have their own intricate personality that makes them such wonderfully genuine individuals.
“I hope that Best Buddies facilitates an even more accepting community on campus.”