DES MOINES, Iowa — Lincoln is the largest high school in Iowa. With more than 2,400 students, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. That’s why meaningful friendships are so important.

“This is our first year paired together but we’ve been friends since freshman year,” said Stefanie Wilson about her friend, Kyle Diep. They are now juniors and leading the Best Buddies group at the school.

The goal is simple…to build friendships between students with and without intellectual disabilities.

“It’s really just reinforced that idea of inclusivity,” Stefanie explained. “Everyone should be included and everyone should be able to have fun.”

Amy Palmer became the group’s advisor two years ago. 

“I wanted to make sure that all students felt included at every moment of their lives,” she said.

She also mentions that the group has quadrupled in size.

“I think it’s because they understand it’s a welcoming environment for all no matter the activities or sports you’re involved in outside of it.”

The friendships formed here are like any other existing outside the confines of school. It’s raising awareness and acceptance among the entire student body.

“One could only wish that the long-term impact for all of them is that no matter the differences, we’re all the same,” Palmer said. “So when they leave and go into a workforce or college level they’re including others, no matter what and to never leave anybody out…that’s our long-term thing.”

Best Buddies’ annual fundraiser, Chef Challenge, is on October 19. For more information visit their website.