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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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 The Making of A Best Buddy: Q&A with Emily Valentino

Emily Valentino is the president of the St. Joe’s chapter of Best Buddies. PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY VALENTINO ’24

Emily Valentino ’24 is an education and special education double major from Hackettstown, New Jersey.  She is president of the St. Joe’s chapter of Best Buddies, an international organization “dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of… people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” according to their website. Earlier this semester, the chapter held a meeting in which they made friendship bracelets, then sold them as a fundraiser.  While there are no more events planned this semester, Best Buddies will pick back up again in the spring 2023 semester.

Valentino is involved with many organizations on campus in addition to Best Buddies. Just a few of her other activities include being an orientation leader and a member of Kappa Delta Pi. Valentino is also involved in Campus Ministry, where she is a Christian Life Community (CLC) leader, participated in the Winter Immersion Program (WIP) and recently directed the SEARCH Retreat for upper-level students.

The Hawk: What does Best Buddies do?

Valentino: The mission of Best Buddies is to create friendships between people with intellectual disabilities and people without disabilities, to sort of foster those friendships and give people the space to do so. That is what our chapter is for.

The Hawk: What made you get involved with Best Buddies?

Valentino: My best friend has Down syndrome. She’s been my best friend my whole life, so she really got me inspired and involved in Best Buddies in high school, even though she went to a different school. I was president of Best Buddies in my high school chapter.  

When I came to campus and I saw that they had a program similar, I was really excited to get involved because I just think it’s an awesome club. The friendships that I’ve created with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have really changed my life. They showed me how to be a good friend and what a good friend is. I got involved at St. Joe’s to continue that passion.

The Hawk: Tell us more about your friend. 

Valentino: Lilly changed my whole perspective. I didn’t realize she had Down syndrome, ever. I was never told. We just grew up together. I didn’t see her any differently because of her disability. When I went to high school, I saw that some of my peers with intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities were being excluded and then were seen as “others.” I didn’t like that. That’s what really caused me to get involved. I think what really changed was when I started creating friendships and I did different events with them. I really realized how much I valued those friendships and how they were just like all my other friendships. Best Buddies is an important program for inclusivity and for everyone to recognize each other as individuals.

The Hawk: How do you plan your campus activities?

Valentino: There’s three of us on eboard who bounced around some ideas of good events that we want to do. I have some ideas from my high school chapter. We also work directly with the Best Buddies headquarters. I have a supervisor from there and he also helps give us some fun ideas.

The Hawk: Can anyone join Best Buddies? 

Valentino: Anyone on campus can join. You can come to one of our meetings and just see what it’s about and decide if you want to come back. We’re inclusive of all members, people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities and people without.

The more, the better to see everyone come together. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know what it is, but once people come, I think they’ll really enjoy it and enjoy getting to know other people on campus

The Hawk: Why is Best Buddies an important organization for a college campus?

Valentino: It’s so important for college students because it provides students an opportunity to create intentional friendships. It also helps them to see people for what they are and not a disability. I’ve created so many friendships with people, especially in high school, through Best Buddies, and the friendships surprise me every time, because they’re so authentic and so good. They have impacted my life forever and I’m still friends with a lot of the people that I’ve met through this club.

Ally Engelbert ’25 contributed to this story.

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