WINTERSET, Iowa — In May, students from Winterset High School’s Best Buddies Club chose to walk down the aisle of the Grand March with a peer who lives with special needs. The Best Buddies Club is an organization designed to encourage students to build relationships with those who are different from them.
“This is year two for the program,” said Lana McDonald, Winterset High School’s special education teacher. “Best Buddies just came up with some plans that our students that have intellectual and developmental disabilities had a chance to feel like they were a part of this very special night with their peers.”
Sophomore Callie Drake is a part of the program. Instead of walking down the Grand March with her boyfriend, she decided to walk down the aisle with her friend, Addie Bench. Addie is a student who lives with autism.
“She is so fun to be around. She’s my buddy for Best Buddies,” said Drake.
A student’s grandparent was overcome with emotions when it was time to watch her granddaughter walk down the aisle. “It just makes me tear up. She has been to Time to Shine before, which is like a special needs prom, but this one, the Winterset schools are amazing,” said Teresa Fleming, the grandmother of a Best Buddies Club member. “They treat her like gold. They treat all of the special needs students like gold here, so we are just so fortunate to live in this district.”
Drake believes this program is vital for all students.
“I just think it’s super important for everyone to feel included in everything, no matter their abilities because they are super cool kids and super cool to be around,” Drake said.