Senior finds inclusion

SHS Best Buddies President Jessica Quakenbush attends leadership conference


Contributed by Jessica Quakenbush

SHS Best Buddies President Jessica Quakenbush poses with fellow PMHS Best Buddies member, Abby Kreuzman. They attended the Best Buddies Leadership Conference in July.

After attending a leadership conference, senior Best Buddies President Jessica Quakenbush has further learned how she can implement inclusion in her life, which is when special needs students are paired with non-special needs students. 

This year, she went to the Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Bloomington the weekend before school started,  July 19 to 23. Each year, Quakenbush says her mindset is changed.

“(I went) because it makes such a big impact every year for me,” Quakenbush said. 

This wasn’t her first time at the conference, nor her first year in Best Buddies. Quakenbush has been involved in the program throughout her high school career. She organizes fundraising for the group, recruits other students to get involved and creates activities for the program as president. 

The leadership conference itself was typical, according to Quakenbush, with guest speakers who spoke about their lives and experiences and how they incorporate inclusion in their lives. 

New sponsor to the Best Buddies program, Jennifer Karushis, sees what Quakenbush can do within the program. 

“She’s our president…,” Karushis said. “She is so driven to make sure that everybody has strong friendships and fun activities to go do.” 

Quakenbush says she has learned a lot throughout her years in Best Buddies, such as the importance of inclusion. As for the program itself, she thinks it’s perfect as is and wouldn’t add anything to it. 

“(The conference) makes me feel more included and it fills my heart seeing all the inclusion that is all over the world,” Quakenbush said. 

Karushis says that Quakenbush has impacted the program in many ways and could help further impact the program. All Quakenbush has learned from this conference can be used to set up a larger member base and transfer leadership skills to new and upcoming members of Best Buddies at SHS.