Weekly Spotlight: Best Buddies

We talk to Dawit Rumicha, the president of Best Buddies, which provides mentors for students with disabilities.

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“Go in with an open mind,” Dawit Rumicha said. “You never know what you’ll learn about yourself.” Photo courtesy of Best Buddies CollegiateLink page

Tucker Berardi, Staff Writer

Welcome to the Weekly Spotlight, where you can learn about on-campus organizations in one easy place.

This week we spoke with Dawit Rumicha, the president of Best Buddies. The club is a “nonprofit organization committed to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” according to its Owl Central page.

The club has roughly 200 active participants, with 30-40 of them being one-on-one buddy sponsors and the remainder being associate members who provide support for the sponsorship pairings.

UP: When did Best Buddies at FAU start?

DR: Fall 2013. There was a previous organization that went inactive a while back. I reenacted Best Buddies my freshman year.

UP: What made you want to start the organization back up again?

DR: I was part of a similar club in high school and it was such a worthwhile experience. It was one of the biggest high school chapter in Florida. I realized that building a relationships with students with disabilities was something I found to be worthwhile.

UP: What are Best Buddies’ meetings usually like?

DR: We don’t do traditional meetings, they seem too redundant. But we do have adoptions, where we facilitate sponsors adopting their buddies and ensure that commitments are being made. We also host activities for mentors and buddies to meet up, both on and off campus like our pajama party.

Best Buddies got together for a movie night and pajama party. Image courtesy of Best Buddies CollegiateLink page

Best Buddies got together for a movie night and pajama party. Image courtesy of Best Buddies CollegiateLink page

UP: Do you ever host any events?

DR: We have beginning and end parties on campus, and a big reveal where mentors meet their buddies. Most of our other events we have off campus.

UP: How long do sponsor-buddy relationships usually last?

DR: The commitment period is from fall to spring, and can be carried on into the next year which usually happens. There is a long waitlist to become a mentor. But after college of course there really isn’t any strict commitment, but very often these friendships last beyond college.

UP: Where do you find buddies to help?

DR: There is a transitional program at Lynn [University] to go to college and develop work skills for people with disabilities, I think it is called Transitioning Owls. So most buddies are on campus, even though sometimes we get parents approach us from off campus and ask for us to let their kid participate as well.

UP: What do the relationships look like outside of events?

DR: We set a bare minimum just to make sure that everyone was being legitimate with their commitments. Sponsors have to contact their buddies at least four times a month and go out together at least twice, even though most pairs do way more.

The Best Buddies organization pictured on a tour of a dog ranch. Image courtesy of Best Buddies Collegiatelink page

The Best Buddies organization pictured on a tour of a dog ranch. Image courtesy of Best Buddies Collegiatelink page

UP: Is there anything most people don’t know about Best Buddies at FAU?

DR: We are a continuously growing program. Everyone thinks that the whole point is to impact other people, but in reality the feeling is mutual. I have been a part of this for seven years, and I can testify that it is definitely a mutual mentorship.

UP: Is there anything you would like interested students to know?

DR: Go in with an open mind. Most do this as a resume booster, I was one of them. But you never know what you’ll learn about yourself. Something you have to do may turn into something you really want to do.

For more information on Best Buddies at FAU, check out its Owl Central page.

Tucker Berardi is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @tucker_berardi.