Tilden Middle School students become Best Buddies in school and out -- Gazette.Net







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Andrew Resnick and DJ Orino see each other every day at Tilden Middle School in Rockville, go to movies together and listen to music, especially The Beatles, DJ’s favorite group.

Their two-year friendship has a special component. They are Best Buddies, members of an organization that matches students with and without developmental disabilities in a friendship program.

This year, the eighth-graders also are the 2014 Best Buddies Maryland Friendship Walk’s Honorary Buddy Pair and will cut the ribbon at the annual fundraiser May 3 at the University of Maryland. It’s an honor they earned by embodying what Best Buddies is all about, said Vince Fiduccia, the state director of Best Buddies Maryland.

“They are a great example of our mission to develop friendships between two students — one with a disability and one without,” Fiduccia said.

Accolades aside, both boys say their friendship is real and they love spending time together.

“DJ has definitely been a great Buddy. He makes me happy. He makes me laugh,” Andrew said.

The boys sometimes communicate with hand gestures, doing fist bumps or high fives to acknowledge each other at school.

“DJ just lights up and smiles every time he sees Andrew,” Leah Arbeter, a special education teacher and Best Buddies sponsor at Tilden, said in an email. “DJ refers to Andrew by saying ‘my friend.’ They are just that — friends.”

There are 23 students in Learning for Independence program at Tilden and 22 of them participate in Best Buddies, an optional program, Arbeter said.

More than 60 regular education students join them for monthly after-school chapter meetings, she said.

“That includes associate members who come to help the peer buddies,” Arbeter said.

At those meetings, students play games, make craft projects and do “getting to know you” activities.

Last month, Arbeter cut letters from newspapers and magazines. The Buddies had find the right letters to spell their names on friendship posters that included their photographs.

“The middle school program is a yearlong program,” Fiduccia said. “We ask that [Buddies] see each other twice a month and make one phone call or email per week.”

There are 20 chapters of Best Buddies in Montgomery County middle and high schools and 90 in Maryland, serving more than 4,100 students and adults statewide, he said.

The Best Buddies Walk is a fundraiser for the friendship programs.

Best Buddies does not require the extra time and effort Andrew and many others put in, he said. Last year, Andrew made Best Buddies his Bar Mitzvah project, raising almost $3,000 for the organization.

“I really like [working with people with disabilities],” Andrew said. “If I can pursue it as a career, I will.”

He also volunteers with the Montgomery Cheetahs, an ice hockey team for people with disabilities.

Andrew said he has learned a lot from his friendship with DJ. It is not a one-way street.

“I think I’ve learned more about myself,” he said. “I’m more responsible, organized and patient. With DJ, I need to plan ahead.”