Meet the Best Buddies Young Leaders Council!

My ‘Best Buddies story’ starts in 2009, when I was a freshman at New York University (NYU). I was so happy to be in a big and exciting city, but also desperate for a sense of community. I attended the club fair during the first week of school to learn about opportunities to get involved at NYU, and met with the Best Buddies College Buddy Director (CBD).

I had heard about Best Buddies before because my older brother, who has an intellectual disability (IDD), was a part of the Best Buddies chapter at his high school. He benefitted so much from having a buddy to spend time with, and I knew that I wanted to give back to the organization.

I joined right away and became involved with the Best Buddies New York office, helping to plan the very first Best Buddies Friendship Walk in New York City. In all honesty, I was totally shocked that the committee members and Best Buddies staff were so open to hearing my ideas! This experience prepared me for the work I’m doing now as a Founding Member of the Best Buddies Young Leaders Council, which will be attending this year’s Best Buddies Leadership Conference (BBLC).

I had the wonderful privilege of attending BBLC for the first time last summer. It was such an inspiring weekend that gave me lots of ideas for my chapter at NYU. I also left with two new friends who shared my passion, and since then we’ve been on a wild ride, working on this unique new program.

If you also attended BBLC last summer, you might remember Erica Brody, who spoke at a few different workshops and ceremonies. She’s a superstar, and her creativity and dedication to Best Buddies is the foundation for the Best Buddies Young Leaders Council (YLC).

You probably also remember K Scarry, another superstar who, with her two best friends, traveled the country to bring awareness to the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. I am so lucky to get to work with these two inspiring young women!

We met on the final day of BBLC to talk about the potential for a committee of young leaders who would provide insight and suggestions to improve and develop the Best Buddies Friendship Walk, nationally. After a few meetings and conference calls and unbelievable support from Best Buddies staff, we established the Best Buddies National Student Walk Committee (NSWC), and we started working on our new goals.

We quickly realized, however, that we couldn’t stop at just improving the Best Buddies Friendship Walk. Best Buddies, as an organization, has a wealth of young leaders, and these young leaders have amazing potential to be powerful agents of change. This inspired us to expand, and create the YLC, a group of outstanding young leaders who are dedicated to furthering the mission of inclusion and respect. We created an application process, and the YLC was born!

In our inaugural year, we have created a team of 13 young leaders from both high school and college chapters. Our members have a wide range of experience and have participated in many of the different Best Buddies programs. We participate in regular conference calls, because we’re scattered all over the country!

My favorite part about the YLC is that it all started with an idea, and the belief that as a young person with big dreams, we can make a huge difference. We’ll be at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference, working with many of you, and listening to your ideas. We cannot wait to meet more inspiring leaders. See you there!

Follow us on Twitter (@BestBuddiesYLC) for updates throughout BBLC!

– Jesse Jo Warner


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