Best Buddies Club takes off

ARHS students participate in an activity with their buddies.Photo: Catherine O’Connor

Every Tuesday in the ARHS English hallway, the Best Buddies club meets in the Pathways to Independence Program (PIP) room. Best Buddies is an international organization that aims to promote friendship and social opportunities for people of all abilities.

Vincent Gray, a junior at ARHS in the PIP program, is a regular member of Best Buddies. Gray has been a part of the club since he was in the middle school. For most of the time, meetings consist of icebreaker games, art projects, and field trips.

Gray’s favorite arts and crafts project since the start of the club was making Halloween bags. He also enjoys chatting and meeting new members.

“I talked to two UMass students last week,” said Gray. “They were cool.”

Another PIP student and member is ARHS junior Skylar Brault. She started attending the club at the beginning of her sophomore year.  

Brault enjoys the club but would like to meet more ARHS students.

“I think it would be kind of nice to know everybody,” said Brault. “There are only two sophomore students that come, and that’s it.”

Brault would like to see more students participate in the club in the upcoming years.

This year, Best Buddies is also working alongside the UMass Boltwood Project, a community service learning program that places UMass students primarily with local organizations that support people with special needs. The UMass students help design and facilitate the club activities while collaborating with ARHS students.

The club advisor is Chris Kusek.

Mr. Kusek has been working in special education for over 14 years. Years ago, he had been the advisor for Best Buddies in Maryland. “I just had a great experience in that club,” said Mr. Kusek.

When he returned to the program at ARHS, Mr. Kusek decided that he wanted to be involved in the club again.

“So far the experience has been wonderful. I find that the Amherst community, both students and staff,  are really supportive of the mission of Best Buddies,” he said.

In terms of future planning, the club hopes to plan more trips to nearby places such as Interskate 91, Pinz Bowling, and the Cinemark movie theater.

In the spring, the club would also like to partner with some adaptive outdoor education institutions, in order for the students to explore the local trails and rivers.