category: Campus News

Carson-Newman Best Buddies named Tenn. Chapter of the Year

Carson-Newman rising senior Kayla Williams with her buddy, Don.

Carson-Newman rising senior Kayla Williams with her buddy, Don.

Carson-Newman University’s Chapter of Best Buddies has been named the 2013 Outstanding College Chapter of the Year for the state of Tennessee.

“This award is for the Best Buddy chapter of Carson-Newman, but we are a small representation of what the greater student body looks like,” said Dr. Kim Hawkins, who serves as faculty advisor for the chapter.

“The purpose of Best Buddies is to form one-to-one friendships with adults who have mental disabilities, and our students do just that,” championed Hawkins. These are not superficial friendships. Our students have big hearts, and it shows.”

“This is the first year we have ever won,” said C-N rising senior Kayla Williams, who is also the upcoming Best Buddies co-president.

The organization, which is dedicated to creating one-on-one relationships between students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will send the C-N chapter on to the Best Buddies International competition for Overall Outstanding Chapter of the Year. There are over 425 chapters on campuses in 51 countries worldwide.

Overall winners will be announced during the Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference July 19 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

Williams says the experience has been invaluable. “It has taught me to view the individuals with intellectual disabilities as people, she shared. “They still have a heart and a mind that works, though it might work a bit differently.”

Best Buddies pairs college students with disabled individuals for relationship building through group activities such as bowling or Buddy Idol, adapted from TV’s American Idol, and through weekly one-on-one meetings and phone conversations.

“It broke down a lot of initial assumptions I had of people with disabilities,” said Williams. “It is a great way to see how these individuals interact and just have a great time with them.”

Williams and her buddy, Don, often hang out at Pizza Hut where he orders a meat lovers pizza with a diet coke. “Anything that involves food, he is all for,” smiled Williams.

The weekly get-togethers are part of what brought the C-N chapter its designation of chapter of the year. Best Buddy chapters are graded on a point system calculated from quality friendship matches. When students turn in their monthly report of contact with their buddy, they are quantified and added to the chapter’s overall score. Carson-Newman competed against Tennessee’s five other college chapters, which include Belmont University, Lipscomb University, Middle Tennessee State University, Trevecca Nazarene University and Vanderbilt University.

Balancing school and volunteering with Best Buddies may be difficult, but Williams said it is about time management and worth the extra effort, adding “You always leave in a great mood when you hang out with the buddies.”

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