'Best Buddies': Local students hope to better connect to peers with disabilities
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. (CBS12) —
Students across Palm Beach County are changing the lives of fellow classmates with disabilities.
It's part of an international non-profit organization called "Best Buddies."
The friendship between two students at Olympic Heights Community High School in Boca Raton is unifying the school's student body.
Their best friend handshake is just one of many special moments shared between Jacob Pasternack and his best buddy Andrew Chea.
“We met back in first grade. He was in my class,” Pasternack said.
Pasternack said he was one of few kids who made an effort to hang out with Chea at school.
“He had trouble making friends back then," he said. "I remember and I’d always go out with him on the playground. We played football, basketball, whatever. We’d around doing tag."
Pasternack’s kindness didn’t go unnoticed. Chea, who has down syndrome, encouraged his friend to join “Best Buddies.” It's an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to one friendships, integrating employment and leadership development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“He came up to me with a flyer that they had and said, 'Hey you should do this,'” Pasternack said, and from there, it was history. “We've been friends for a while,” he said.
Pasternack, who’s the president of the club, said his friendship with Chea has changed his friends and peers' attitudes toward people with disabilities.
“They weren't necessarily prejudice against people with disabilities. They were just wary of them. They weren't mean towards them, but they just didn't pay them much heed," Pasternack said. "The whole school dynamic has changed and really accepted their community into our club."
Right now, Pasternack is fundraising for the "Best Buddies Friendship Walk" scheduled for Saturday April 22, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. at City Place.
The two boys will both be present at the walk.
For more information, visit: Event Overview - Best Buddies Friendshipwalk - Palm Beach.