Best Buddies sparks long-term friendship

Students+Courtney+Smith+and+Justice+Davis+celebrate+after+being+matched+in+their+one-on-one+friendship.+The+Best+Buddies+Match+Party+sparked+the+budding+connection+between+the+two.

Lauren DeSplinter

Students Courtney Smith and Justice Davis celebrate after being matched in their one-on-one friendship. The Best Buddies Match Party sparked the budding connection between the two.

Sara Richard, Contributing Writer

Forming a forever friendship does not happen everyday. Building special connections takes time and patience, but over the course of the past year, senior Courtney Smith and junior Justice Davis have established a once-in-a-lifetime bond.

Smith and Davis met through the Best Buddies program, which connects students in the PALS (Practical Application of Life Skills) program to general education students, last year and have since grown tremendously to become the “best of buddies”.

Before being matched in the one-on-one friendship, Smith and Davis did not know each other well; however, upon meeting, they seemed to have a special connection. Their opposite personalities worked well together in addition to the shared love of ice cream and sporting events that helped them become fast friends.

“They had a bond initially,” special education department chair and sponsor of Best Buddies Haley Agriesti said. “They just kind of clicked.”

It was evident to Best Buddies president senior Emma Lancaster that Smith and Davis would compliment each other well and allow each other to grow.

“Justice was really shy, and Courtney is very outgoing, so we thought Courtney would be good for him. She could bring him out of his shell,” Lancaster said. “Their personalities matched up in a way that they could better each other.”

Before forming his close relationship with Smith, Davis was timid and did not socialize.

Their personalities matched up in a way that they could better each other.”

— Emma Lancaster

“He used to not talk to anyone,” Lancaster said. “It took him longer to formulate what he wanted to say and because of that he wouldn’t really give it a shot. He didn’t want to try.”

As Davis grew comfortable around Smith and learned many lessons from her, he outgrew a large part of his shyness. Smith has been able to help break down his walls and walk alongside him as he learns to navigate making friends in high school.

“He was able to get out and talk to people more, and as he talked to more people, he got better at coming up with what he wanted to say on the spot,” Lancaster said. “By talking to Courtney so much he learned that people want to hear what he has to say and its okay if it takes him some time to formulate his thoughts.”

Davis has truly blossomed, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Smith.

“Him having the opportunity to have a purposeful friend allowed him to get comfortable with people,” Smith said. “He was able to branch out and now he’s friends with so many kids. He’s definitely so much more confident in the hallway.”

Like every friendship, the one between Smith and Davis is not one-sided. Smith has seen a large amount of personal growth in her life occur as a result of their relationship.

“He really taught me there isn’t much of a difference between us,” Smith said. “He’s taught me a lot of patience and being gentler. He’s shown me how to slow down and enjoy the moment, since I’m very fast paced and Justice is very laid back.”

Inevitably, Smith will graduate this Spring, but Davis will not be left alone in the process.

“Next year, when Justice is on his own, it’s not going to be some terrible transition without Courtney,” Lancaster said. “He’s going to know enough people and be confident in himself that next year he will be able to forge his own path successfully.”

Smith has helped Davis build connections and establish a strong network of friends to support him throughout his last years of high school. Smith’s friends are now Davis’ friends and it is her goal to make sure he forms more connections with general education students.

“The friendship isn’t just us, he’s friends with my friends and so many people outside of just the PALS room,” Smith said. “Our friendship is more of a group of friends, and that’s what high school is about. I want him to be able to experience that.”

In the last months they have together, Smith wants to make sure she expresses to Davis just how special he is.

“A lot of people think he’s so awesome and that’s one thing I really hope he knows,” Smith said. “I hope he finds confidence and security in knowing that everyone thinks he’s cool and people enjoy getting to see him in the hallway.”

A friendship like this one isn’t something that abruptly stops after high school. Smith and Davis hope to continue their friendship long after high school..

“They’ll be friends forever,” Agriesti said.