Jaycie Bateman of The Webb School has been selected as Champion of the Year for Best Buddies. This non-profit focuses on forming one-on-one friendships between people with and without disabilities. At the high school level, each Best Buddies chapter matches and pairs kids with and without IDDs, and the pairs spend time with each other over the school year.
Bateman started a Best Buddies chapter at The Webb School last year. Once a month, they travel to Cascade Elementary and spend time with their special education classroom. Bateman was chosen, in addition by nine others, by the Tennessee branch of Best Buddies to participate in a competitive fundraising race. This is in addition to the Best Buddies Champion of the Year Gala that will take place on Oct. 28 at the JW Marriott in Nashville. Scan the QR code for more information.
Bateman is also the only high school nominee this year, so she says she has a big job ahead. Below is a Q&A she had with the Bedford County Post.
Why did you start a chapter of Best Buddies at the Webb School?
While The Webb School is home to a very diverse community, the intellectually and developmentally disabled are not represented. Because we do not have a special education program, they are often left out of the conversation of inclusion. Luckily, my mother’s work had an existing relationship with the Best Buddies organization. After connecting with the state office for Best Buddies, Webb was able to have their own chapter. We are beyond grateful that Cascade allowed us to develop relationships with their special education students.
What has been the most surprising thing to happen since you started this chapter?
The most surprising aspect of this journey was how deep the connections we formed really were. Each time we visited Cascade last year, our bond continued to grow. Leading up to the trips, we were genuinely excited to see our buddies and talk about everything under the sun. Our last trip of the year was gloomy as we had to leave because we weren’t in school over the summer. However, it was all worth it when we reunited just this month to kick off the new year.
What have been some major learning curves of this journey?
A major learning curve for myself and my peers was learning how to connect with our buddies. Each child is unique in their own way and needed different approaches in order to reciprocate the friendship we were looking to form. Once we were able to get to know each amazing buddy, friendships formed with ease.
What has been the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of my Best Buddies chapter has been watching the faces of my buddies light up whenever we enter the room. It was my goal to actually make a difference in their lives, and every time I see their pure joyful smiles, I know it was all worth it. I distinctly remember our last Christmas trip where we delivered presents to all the children. Before we left, a buddy came up to hug me and told me that he loved me. There aren’t many other moments in my life that I can recall that top the feeling I got from hearing those words.
What are some major challenges of what you do? Is working with elementary age special-ed different than working with older special-ed?
It can be challenging setting up all the meetings and activities that we have with Cascade. In a traditional Best Buddies chapter, the members with and without disabilities are able to interact in the same school, but this is not possible for our unique chapter. While it is more challenging to get everyone on the same page, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Working with elementary-age special education students has brought a new light into my life. They have such a large imagination coupled with an enormous capacity for love and friendship. I am learning from them every day.
How can people support your campaign? Can you give some details about the upcoming gala on Oct. 28?
As a Champion of the Year, I am one of ten competitors in a fundraising race. I am at a slight disadvantage, as I am the only high schooler in a group with other adults, but I know with your support, it is not impossible. The campaign comes to a close with the Champion of the Year gala where there will be a live auction followed by the announcement of the Ultimate Champion of the Year. There are many different ways to support my campaign. There are direct donations of any amount. If you know of a business that would like to sponsor the Best Buddies organization, your sponsorship would contribute to my campaign. Finally, if you are aware of any unique items or opportunities that you would like to donate, the amount the item is bought for from the auction also goes through my account. Whatever your donation, large or small, is greatly appreciated.
What are your career goals? What are your next steps after graduating from Webb?
After Webb, I plan to attend college to study neuroscience. The more we understand the brain, the better we can help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities adapt to their lives. I also plan to continue participating in the Best Buddies program throughout college and after graduation. I hope to make as many friendships as possible while also spreading the Best Buddies mission to new places.