Academy’s Best Buddies Club Receives Award

May 25, 2018


Photo Credit: Juliana Ferrie/Achona Online

Tampa’s Pepin Academy was established in 1999. The school educates students with learning disabilities from third to twelfth grade.

Recently, Academy’s Best Buddies club received Florida’s Most Outstanding Chapter of the Year, and the club was entered into the Worldwide Most Outstanding Chapter of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference. The conference will take place during the summer in Indiana.

The club’s president is Myah Rhines (‘19), who has created many new opportunities for students to bond with their buddies.

Rhines said, “When I found out about receiving this award, I was in shock. I knew how hard our club worked this year, and the tremendous improvement from last year, but I never realized that it was being recognized. It is extremely gratifying to know that we are making a difference and getting even further along with the journey of inclusion.”

Throughout this year, the Best Buddies club at Academy participated in several events. Best Buddies, an international organization, aims to promote the formation of close friendships among those with “intellectual and developmental disabilities.” At the beginning of the year, members of the club were paired with students from the Pepin Academy.  

Rhines said, “I would say the most rewarding part of being so involved with Best Buddies is seeing how the other girls in my club are impacted. I know the feeling of complete gratefulness after interacting with the special needs kids and hearing that from the members in my club is extremely rewarding.”

Photo Credit: Joely Barkett (used with permission) 
Pepin students form close bonds with their Academy buddies. Buddies spend time together not only during club sponsored events, but also through plans they make on their own.

Students and their buddies attended various events together during the year, such as the Best Buddies dance and the Christmas gift exchange. Members of Best Buddies also participated in events such as the Friendship Walk and a field day at Academy.

Gabby Boyd (‘19) said, “The dance was a luau theme, and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of new friends there even though my buddy did not attend. I was able to form a lot of new bonds with other people’s buddies. The club is so rewarding because you get to form such amazing friendships with a lot of awesome people from Pepin Academy and my fellow classmates.”

Photo Credit: Isabella Ferrie (used with permission)
Tampa’s Friendship Walk occurred on April 21, 2018. The walk aims to promote the organization’s goal to obtain inclusion for all.

Rhines has been working to add new events to the club’s itinerary for next year.

Rhines said, “I have many events planned for next year that I am extremely excited for. For our first event of the new school year, I plan on having a match party in the beginning of the year, where AHN students will get to meet their match at Pepin, while participating in games and activities at Al Lopez Park. This is just one of many to look forward to.”



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