Through the Elon Buddies program, Elon students work with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them gain connections.
Students from the Elon Buddies program and students from Alamance Community College celebrated their prom to close out the end of the school year with food, music and an acapella group performance.
Elon Buddies is a program through Elon Volunteers! created to mimic Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization with programs around the world that creates friendships between volunteers and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Elon Buddies partners with Alamance Community College’s Career College program. Elon students and Alamance Community College students are paired together and get to know each other through several events like movies and going bowling. Students get to practice their social skills through spending time with Elon Buddies volunteers.
“They don’t know how to always relate to the average college student so this kind of helps them adapt,” said Deborah Crotts, an instructor in the academic and career readiness department at Alamance Community College.
Students in the College Career program complete a two-year certificate program where they can participate in different pathways such as horticulture and health and public service. When they graduate, they can become assistants in their respective fields, Vanetta Daye, an instructor in the academic and career readiness program said.
Co-coordinators of the Elon Buddies program Liza Margules ’21 and Liam Forlow ‘20 both participated in a “Buddies” program in high school and wanted to take part in it when they came to Elon. Elon Buddies shows that people of all kinds can get along, Margules said.
“I always felt a passion about promoting inclusion and diversity and I feel like disabled populations are very marginalized in our society,” Margules said.
Forlow said Elon Buddies aims to listen to the needs of the students in the College Career program and what would benefit them.
“Each group of students is new each year and they’re different so what they want really is the biggest thing,” Forlow said. “It’s their lives, it’s their voice, it’s their program and I guess the biggest thing is that we try to ask them what they want out of this because that’s what we’re here for.”
Alamance Community College students were looking forward to their prom at Elon because they get to dress up, Daye said, but Elon Buddies is important to the students because it lets them know that they are valued.
“It lets them realize that they can be accepted by people that are not like them, and people that are not like them care about them and their opinions,” Daye said.