Written By: Olivia Sothoron
From club sports to academic clubs, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) offers a plethora of clubs for students to find something that fits their interests. Across campus, there are various clubs that work to give back to the community, including Knits for the Needy, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life. Another student-led organization at SMCM that works to give back to the community is Best Buddies.
Best Buddies is an international organization that has chapters in many colleges and high schools, as well as some middle schools. Each chapter is partnered with a host site or group of individuals within the school, and members of the Best Buddies club volunteer to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. College chapters are paired with a host site and interact with individuals in the community, whereas high school and middle school chapters are paired with students from that same school.
Since Best Buddies is an international organization, there is an annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference which members of the executive board are required to attend. At the conference, executive board members learn strategies to make their chapter as great as possible, while also having the opportunity to meet and get to know executive board members from around the world. In addition to the international conference, there are also local state training sessions throughout the year. SMCM Best Buddies president Lily Tender (‘22) explained that she keeps in touch with local representatives and executives throughout the year to help the club become as successful as possible.
Tender has been involved in the SMCM chapter of Best Buddies since her first year, and she also participated in Best Buddies throughout high school while serving as her high school chapter’s vice president. She has worked to create opportunities for SMCM’s chapter of Best Buddies, and explained: “In a typical year we will have a barbeque, valentines day gala, friendsgiving potluck and more. We also like to go to SMCM sports games to support members of the club.”
SMCM Best Buddies vice president Ashley Blasko (‘23) has been a member of the College’s chapter of Best Buddies since her freshman year, and she was also involved in Best Buddies for six years prior through her middle and high schools. Blasko explained that her favorite memories include going to Indiana for the leadership conferences. She also stated: “I loved our Friendsgiving celebration last year. We carved pumpkins and ate pizza and we just had a great time!”
However, this is no ordinary year for SMCM clubs and organizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, SMCM Best Buddies has met as an entire group on one Saturday of every month, with peer buddies meeting with their partners throughout the month as well. Tender explained that this year, since they cannot meet in person, they have transitioned to an all online format, with buddies meeting with each other over Zoom. She mentioned, “It has definitely been difficult because of technical difficulties but we are trying our best to make it work.”
Throughout her years as a member of SMCM Best Buddies, Tender has helped coordinate many opportunities for SMCM students to socialize and interact with their buddies. She recounted one of her favorite memories from her freshman year when SMCM Best Buddies danced during the intermission of the dance show. Tender remarked that it “was really exciting and all the buddies had an amazing time!”
Best Buddies is a great way to join a fun and inclusive club that allows members to become involved in the community and to work with people who they would not ordinarily meet. For more information, check out the club’s instagram account @SMCMBestBuddies. One can also reach out to Lily Tender via her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.