Three years ago, the Best Buddies club at Seattle University was an almost completely empty room. Junior Psychology and Humanities for Leadership major Molly McCabe founded the club and today, it has grown to include over 30 members.
As an international nonpro t organization, the goal of Best Buddies is to form one-to-one friendships between Seattle U students and people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. e buddies, the title for the club members with disabilities, are community members ranging on average from age 21-27.
“It’s pure friendship, it’s not mentoring, there’s no hierarchy or power structure. It’s just community,” McCabe said.
is quarter, Best Buddies SU has bigger plans for their organization. In less than a week, on April 17, the club is putting on an event in the Wycko Auditorium called Buddy Talks.
Haley Gilford, a junior Criminal Justice major at Seattle U who has been a member for three years, elaborated on some of the specific goals of the event.
“These past couple months, we’ve focused on advocacy…talking about inclusion on a policy level and on an educational level,” Gilford said. “What this Buddy Talks aims to do is to pass the mic to people with intellectual disabilities, and give them the stage to talk about how to advocate for themselves and how they did it.”
“People at Seattle U really think that this is such a social justice oriented area and how could you leave people with disabilities out? But there are no people on this campus with down- syndrome and there’s little visibility for people who have varying levels of autism on this campus and not all of our buildings are easily ADA accessible,” McCabe said, expressing frustration regarding the difficulty to plan events for disabled people on Seattle U campus due to the limited accessibility of buildings and limited parking spaces.
There will be seven speakers at the event, speaking from a range of differently abled perspectives, although Best Buddies solely focuses on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
There will be four student speakers who are buddies from the club. Devon Adelman, Kenassa Sakura, Brad Morse, and Joseph Bosma-Moody will talk about their experiences with Best Buddies, the use of offensive language and their experience in the workforce.
“Every single person who is speaking has a disability of some sort and is able to use this forum to speak in a way that I don’t think Seattle U has featured before,” McCabe said. “ at was really important to me…I don’t want to be the face of Best Buddies… it’s their job to advocate for themselves and they do it way better than I do.”
Ph.D. candidate Dawn Dubsky is a quadruple amputee who will also be speaking about the research she’s done and the foundation she started called America Against Malaria.
The last speakers at the event, Eric Mathes and Ivanova Smith, are two prominent social advocates from the community who will be discussing different forms of policy as well as how they, as people with disabilities, go about instituting change.
“I plan to speak on the importance of true inclusion and how it supports the civil rights of people with disabilities,” Smith said. “It’s important for students and faculty to hear from the community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When our lives are shared, our experiences, it should come from us.”
When McCabe came to Seattle U, she had already been a member of Best Buddies in California for six years. Upon her disappointment at the complete lack of Best Buddies in all of Washington, three years ago she decided to open the first chapter in the state.
“A huge part of the club right now is that we are working with a bunch of people in the community and with Best Buddies International to bring Best Buddies to the state of Washington and get a state office here and a lot of business support,” McCabe said, who recently got on the State Board for Expansion to bring Best Buddies to Washington state.
The University of Washington is opening a Best Buddies chapter in the next few months and the state is currently working on expanding to five high schools in the next six months.
Buddy Talks will be held at 7:00 p.m. in Wyckoff Auditorium on April 17.