Through the Leadership Advancement Scholarship Program, I have learned that a great leader is someone who is inclusive to all. A leader is someone who is accepting and welcoming to individuals of all different backgrounds. Being a member of Best Buddies at Central Michigan University reflects the ideals of leadership at CMU.
Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that emphasizes building one-to-one friendships with individuals with intellectual disabilities. The organization prioritizes treating everyone as equals and looking past individuals’ disabilities. For years I have heard great things about this organization, but have never had the opportunity to join. When I heard CMU had a chapter of Best Buddies at the school, I knew it was something I had to get involved with.
At first, I was nervous about getting a buddy. It made me nervous knowing I had never mentored an adult before. However, this apprehension was not going to stop me from getting involved with Best Buddies.
After going through an interview process, I was paired with a 65-year old woman named SueEllen. Taking on SueEllen as a buddy was challenging because she had been going through depression before I had arrived. During every visit she would hardly talk and would constantly tell me about how badly she wanted to leave. I had never faced a challenge quite like this before.
Watching SueEllen experience such a difficult time was saddening to see. Since I was her buddy, I felt as though I now had a responsibility to help her overcome her obstacle. After weeks of visiting and providing her with company, a miracle happened. As I walked into the group home one day, the most beautiful thing happened; she smiled and leaned to an employee to say, “I have a friend!” I had never seen SueEllen so happy. That moment literally brought tears to my eyes.
Being a member of Best Buddies has taught me that the little moments in one person’s eyes are the big moments in another’s. Being present in a person’s life is sometimes all that is needed for a person to feel happy and at-peace with who they are.