The Best Buddies Club recently hopped on a campaign to change the conversation about special needs individuals.
Not a lot of people know what goes on in Building 15.
Seabreeze High School is a big campus, with over 1,500 students in attendance. But some of those students are lost in the background, secluded from their peers — specifically in Building 15.
For students enrolled in Exceptional Student Education, this isolation is the norm. Though it's usually not done on purpose, special needs students rarely interact with peers outside their own educational programming. That is, until the Best Buddies came along.
Established just this school year, the Best Buddies Club is an 80-student strong organization that pairs general class students with their special needs peers to help integrate the school and form lasting friendships.
"A lot of students are uncomfortable and don't know how to interact with these kids, said member Katherine Paspalakis.
"They're afraid to say or do the wrong thing," agreed Vail Lynn. "We should all be able to be together. It adds so much to not only their lives, but ours too."
So in the spirit of helping out their new friends, the Best Buddies Club participated in the R-Word Campaign to get people to pledge to stop using the word "retard." According to the campaign's website, the movement is starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people; something these students believe Seabreeze desperately needs.
"It's hardly ever used directly at these kids," Paspalakis said. "It's more of using it as a synonym for 'dumb' or 'stupid.' But it's still offensive because before they were named as intellectually disabled, they were labeled mentally retarded. So that word originated as their definition."
"People don't realize that these kids aren't stupid," Lynn said. "They're so special. For what they are capable of, these kids are amazing. People don't realize when they're saying the word, how hurtful it is because it's not an accurate representation of these people."
Since they launched their campaign in March — which included a video featuring 20 special needs students — the Best Buddies Club gathered over 250 signatures and a lot of awareness.
But for the students who still don't what goes on in Building 15, we'll give you a hint: it involves general class and special needs students interacting together, and bonding over drawings of Godzilla.
For more information on the R-Word campaign, visit r-word.org.