Being a member of Delta Gamma has inspired me to be successful and fun while also serving my community. A few years ago a sister of mine introduced me to an organization on campus called Best Buddies. I have been actively involved and am currently the treasurer of the UT Chapter.
For those of you who have not heard of Best Buddies, it is a country wide organization that brings together UT students and adults in the Austin community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in order to promote social integration. Best Buddies pairs many of the UT students with a Buddy in a one to one friendship aimed at teaching those with IDD to function in mainstream society and succeed in securing jobs and maintaining relationships with all types of individuals. As an officer, we plan and host six events each semester to bring together all of the Buddy pairs as well as other UT students who want to help out. We also host a Spread the Word to End the Word campaign each year and encourage students and faculty to take the pledge to stop using the R-Word.
My personal experience with Best Buddies has been most meaning full through my one to one friendship with Andria. Andria, who, along with other disabilities, is legally blind, is a shy, loving, kind, funny woman who lives in a group home and enjoys eating every flavor of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Upon our meeting, our relationship was rocky. Being the quiet woman that she is, our time spent together often was slow and awkward. She was new to her group home, the program, and me. I tried my best to break her out of her shell in hopes that she could experience the true fun of Best Buddies events. It took about half a year before I saw any signs of major improvement. By the spring she had begun making jokes with me and asking me questions instead of only answering mine. By the end of the year she begged me to come back and be her buddy once again, which I gladly did. As this year continues, I have seen even more improvement in Andria, she often tells me about her friends in her home and her visits to see her family. She talks to me about shopping and new clothes, which she has begun to be able to budget for herself. She even has started participating in activities at the events that are difficult for her because of her sight. She is no longer timid and afraid of what others might think or say because we have shown her that we are accepting of everyone. She has made tremendous improvements in her ability to create new friendships and enjoy old ones and has really begun to show her true personality.
As my year comes to an end and I will be leaving UT and Best Buddies, I am excited about how far things have come. I know that I have made an impact on Andria and she in turn has made an impact on me. She has helped me be patient and flexible when dealing with people different from me and has shown me the importance of reaching out to others. As I embark on the next chapter of my life I will continue to hold on to the memories of Andria and Best Buddies and look for the next opportunity to Do Good.