With an established track record with our university, college and high school programs, Best Buddies Canada began to plan the introduction of its elementary school program in 2008.
The first middle school program launched in 2008, at Citadel Middle School in British Columbia. In 2009 the first elementary chapter, at Evelyn Harrison Public School in Ontario, opened.
We have since created chapters in Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, with much success. We recently received an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to expand the elementary program in Hamilton, Ontario.
Best Buddies knows friendship is important. For people with intellectual disabilities, friendship is a way for them to become more involved with their communities and increases confidence.
By introducing the program at elementary and middle schools, we can promote social inclusion from a young age, and encourage life-long involvement with Best Buddies.
Participants are paired in one-on-one partnerships, meeting during weekly or bi-weekly group activities, held during the school day. This allows students to not only know who their buddy is, but also participate in a comfortable setting. Buddy Pairs build and cementing their friendship, while the entire chapter is developing a bond which will last the entire school year, and into the future. Chapters can also arrange activities outside of the school, with proper permission from the school.
To help launch the program in a school, each school is led by teachers and a Best Buddies staff member. Once the chapter becomes established, chapters take on more independence. Best Buddies remain involved to help the chapter with planning, activities, and troubleshoot any problems.
The elementary program focuses less on disability, and more on creating friendships between everyone in the chapter. We want students to recognize their similarities, not their differences, and learn from any early age to accept everyone for who they are, and bond over what they have in common.
With the elementary school program, Best Buddies creates an environment of life-long learning, compassion and acceptance for all people.
How much work is involved in running a chapter?
Read the program overview
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