Salve’s Best Buddies named RI’s Outstanding Chapter of the Year
In a year that has been particularly challenging for the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the efforts of students who make up Salve Regina’s chapter of Best Buddies International has been recognized as Rhode Island’s Outstanding Chapter of the Year for its outstanding commitment, leadership and unwavering dedication to the Best Buddies mission.
“This honor validates all the hard work and amazing programming we have put on for years now,” said Michael Rosati ’21, president of Salve Regina’s chapter. “We often say the unofficial goal is to ‘put Best Buddies out of business’ because we hope that our organization creates a world where inclusion is the norm. By participating in Best Buddies, Salve students help to create a world where people with differing abilities can be included and part of the community and having their voices heard.”
Salve’s chapter partners about 40 students with 40 members of the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to Rosati, Salve Regina’s executive board includes seniors Morgan Albert ’21, Elizabeth Granfield ’21, Nora Serrao ’21 and Callie Crowston-Hickey ’21, and junior Caroline Duseau ’22. The leadership team represents a variety of academic majors, including education, nursing, accounting and psychology.
When nominated for the recognition earlier this year, the students completed their application by highlighting the chapter’s accomplishments and partnerships in the community. “We mentioned specifically how we continued our friendships throughout the pandemic, despite everyone being home,” said Rosati, an elementary and special education major.
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“Just like everyone else, this pandemic has taken an extreme toll of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” he said. “Many of our buddies felt the isolation of the pandemic and quarantining even more so than the typical adult. Without solid relationships to maintain, we saw many of our buddies struggle. Many of them relied heavily on their Best Buddies friendships as the only outlet of social interaction beyond their families and those they live with.”
Salve Regina’s chapter adapted its approach during COVID-19 to maintain those friendships. They typically gather in large groups to celebrate holidays, have meals together, and stage other fun events but because of COVID-19, many of those get-togethers were transitioned to Zoom.
“We converted our typical schedule to something virtual,” Rosati said. “We have also come up with new ideas like an ‘At Home Scavenger Hunt,’ where we had a list of items and we all went around our homes and yards to find the items and shared with each other. Although much has changed, the core of Best Buddies – friendship – has not. We are committed to our one-to-one friendships and our mission of inclusion.”
When not constrained by COVID-19 regulations, Best Buddies partners with Salve Athletics to host the “Spread the Word to End the Word” bake sale and fundraiser during men’s and women’s basketball games each winter. They also partner with Salve Regina’s all-female a capella group, Pitches with Attitude, who lead students and buddies in Christmas Carols.
“Our community partner, Looking Upwards in Middletown, has continually served as an amazing partner by helping to recruit community members and buddies for the program,” Rosati added.
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Dr. Debra Cherubini, chair of Salve Regina’s nursing department, serves as the chapter’s advisor. She joined on following last year’s retirement of longtime advisor Kathryn Rok. “Dr. C has been an incredible support and has helped our chapter flourish to the award-winning chapter it is today,” Rosati said. “Her experience, expertise and passion for the mission of Best Buddies has been such an asset.”
Best Buddies International is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through empowerment and meaningful friendships.
“Each of the dedicated individuals in our chapter bring so much passion and dedication to the mission of inclusion and community,” said Rosati, who wanted to share a message with other Salve Regina students. “If you want to be part of an organization that changes lives by building lifelong friendships, then Best Buddies is the one for you. We are committed to making the world a more inclusive place, one friendship at a time.”