‘Best Buddies’ back at FFHS

Heather Latter

The “Best Buddies” program, a national, charitable organization dedicated to enhancing communities through friendships between people with and without disabilities, is back up and running at Fort Frances High School.
No longer spearheaded by Community Living Fort Frances and District, students and staff at the school have revitalized the program with a strong school-based focus.
“It’s a really good way to encourage inclusion, acceptance of diversity, and to create a caring culture for the school,” noted staff advisor Michelle Mosbeck, saying “Best Buddies” provides opportunities for people who have been marginalized and isolated to find their place among their peers.
“It allows the students to get to know one another and to expand their peer groups,” she explained, adding the program also teaches the students about the diverse talents and contributions made by each and every person.
Mosbeck began organizing the “Best Buddies” program just last month and had nearly 30 students sign up.
“I knew it would take off,” she enthused. “There are so many kids amazing kids. They are extremely passionate and want the opportunity to help others.
“I’m very proud of the group we have.”
The program at FFHS focuses on opportunities for students to interact with each other at school functions, whether in the classroom or at lunch time, and to offer the skills necessary to build long-lasting and meaningful friendships.
“We look for activities that will be educational and entertaining for all of the students,” Mosbeck said.
“It may be as casual as having lunch with students, looking for students that are sitting alone and inviting them to join a group of friends, or visiting each other’s classes to experience new things.”
The first meeting of “Best Buddies” last month was a pizza party, where the students could eat lunch and visit with each other.
They also interacted at the school’s Hallowe’en dance, and most recently participated in a rug-hooking project together.
“We just thought rug-hooking would be a unique activity, which would offer some teamwork and teach patience,” reasoned teacher Tracy Treflin, who helped organize the rug-hooking, which also doubled as an art lesson for classes throughout the day.
Local rug-hookers Debbie Ballard and Judy Kielczewski were on hand to assist students with the “What Hooks You Here?” community rug-hooking project, which includes four large panels featuring the four seasons and depicting activities and sights people living in the Rainy Lake area enjoy.
“It’s a lot of fun,” enthused student Alyssa Van Drunen, who decided to get involved in the “Best Buddies” program to meet new people.
“It was pretty easy to learn how to do it and I was happy to help others do it,” she added, referring to the rug-hooking activity.
“It’s phenomenal—I’m really enjoying it,” echoed Tanner Bell, who is a student advisor for the “Best Buddies” program along with Lyle Dolph and Julianna Donaldson.
“It’s so great to interact with others because it offers you insight into their lives, such as their strengths and challenges, and everyone helps each other,” said Bell, who also sits on a variety of groups in the school, in addition to the local “Celebrating Diversity” committee.
“I just really wanted to get involved as much as I can to make it a better place,” he remarked.
Mosbeck said the FFHS “Best Buddies” program will be planning different activities throughout the school year.
The students also will be presented with little challenges, such as to talk to someone new, to sit with someone at lunch who may be lonely, or to stand up for someone unable to do so.
“I think the program will continue to grow and to help make the high school a caring community,” Mosbeck said.
“And I think other people will be able to learn from these students as leaders in the school and community,” she added.