CHICOPEE – For a second year, Chicopee Comprehensive High School will host annual Best Buddies Formal Ball.
Anne Demeo, the Best Buddies advisor at the high school, told Reminder Publications that 250 students from eight different high schools are expected to attend the prom on March 27.
“They’re going to come down for the night and have a ball,” she said.
Last year the members of the Western Massachusetts chapters of the organization had its first-ever inclusive prom.
Demeo said, “Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In each district, high school students with or without intellectual and developmental disabilities are matched in one-to-one friendships for at least one academic year. Together, the ‘buddy pairs’ talk at least once a week, spend time together at least twice a month and gather as a group for activities once a month.”
Demeo explained that Best Buddies proms have been conducted for the past eight to 10 years in eastern Massachusetts, but the distance proved to be a deterrent for students in this part of the state to attend.
There are about 100 students participating in the program between Chicopee Comp and Chicopee High School with about 30 matches, Demeo said. Of those 30 friendships, she said about a dozen are “strong.”
The local chapters meet monthly and plan activities that range from after school parties to Christmas shopping trips to the Holyoke Mall, she added. Various fundraisers finance the events.
“Definitely the whole focus is on inclusion,” Demeo said. She added students with special needs have “real friendships” with other students through the program.
These friendships can help special needs students “make the leap to being more independent,” Demeo said.