Women to watch for March 4: Mrs. Dallahi and Ms. Hannon
The Lancer Spirit is celebrating the women of Londonderry during the month of March in honor of Women’s History Month. For each day of the month, LSO will be highlighting an inspiring woman within the Londonderry community who has demonstrated strong leadership and influential behavior.
Today’s “Women to Watch” are Best Buddies Organizers Mrs. Dallahi and Ms. Hannon.
Best Buddies is a program with the purpose of helping kids with intellectual disabilities discover a sense of belonging they may have previously seen as difficult to find. A new chapter of the organization is currently in the process of being introduced to LHS.
“I know that bringing Best Buddies to LHS can open doors to friendship and provide opportunities for inclusion and leadership for all students,” Jeannie Dallahi, a member of the professional staff of Best Buddies, said.
Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization that has the goal of establishing close relationships between individuals with and without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, also known as IDDs. The program has been incorporated into schools at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels in order to foster friendships and break social barriers.
“Best Buddies is full of energy and inspiration and opportunity, where students can make a profound impact on someone else’s life, as well as their own life, through friendship and leadership,” Dallahi said.
Dallahi has a child with Down Syndrome who had an increasingly difficult time making friends with her peers once she got to middle school. After first learning about Best Buddies, Dallahi worked with the program manager of the Best Buddies New Hampshire state office to introduce a chapter to LMS in the spring of 2018. She was hired as the Best Buddies Program Manager for community engagement soon after the creation of the LMS branch.
“For me, working for Best Buddies is a dream job where I can go to work every day and work towards creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and where they can be recognized for their talents, strengths and abilities,” Dallahi said.
Dallahi proposed the idea of introducing Best Buddies to LHS as she knew how impactful the program at LMS was to those involved. While the school has a fantastic Unified Program, she wanted kids who weren’t too interested in sports to also feel like they could belong.
Best Buddies is a program that is open to all students with any type of interest, which helps take friendship opportunities to the next level off of the field.
“There are times when you can be in a room with many people, but still feel lonely. However, if you are connected to just one person in that room, then you can feel like you belong,” Dallahi said.
Best Buddies works by putting together students with and without disabilities in pairs called Peer Buddies. These pairings are required to get together at least twice a month to spend time together on or off school grounds, doing things like eating lunch together or going to see a movie.
“The research shows that one-to-one friendships improve mental and physical health, improve confidence, and make humans happier,” Dallahi said.
Due to the fact that there are approximately twenty students with IDDs who will be involved in the program, not all typical students will be able to become peer buddies. However, all students who aren’t put in a match can still be involved as associate buddies by attending the meetings and events the club will host.
“At my old school, everyone [in the program] met once a month for things like holiday parties or themed days like a puzzle day or movie day,” Ms. Hannon, an LHS special education teacher, said.
Hannon is excited for the introduction of Best Buddies to the school. She is looking forward to helping set up a chapter that will provide only love and friendship to all members involved, and help students discover their inner strength and courage.
“Some of the kids are more shy and struggle with communicating,” Hannon said. “I think it will take a little while to learn the kids and how to interact with them, but I think it will be really great once things get going.”
While a few meetings have already taken place teaching students how to register for the program, it is not too late to join Best Buddies. Hannon encourages all students who want to get involved to participate in the program and help make the chapter the best it can possibly be.
“I think that the buddies will teach [typical students] as much as they will teach their buddies, and I think it will be a great opportunity to see the world in a different way that they never would have experienced before,” Hannon said.
Students can follow the club through @LHS_BestBuds on Twitter and @londonderrybestbuddies on Instagram. See Ms. Hannon or email her at [email protected] with any questions.
March is National Inclusion Month, so Best Buddies has decided to promote inclusion and acceptance of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities through the use of a banner.
Students can sign the banner at lunches for the remainder of the week to show their support for the cause and the special month.
Forms are also available on the signing table where members of the school community can write down different ways to make LHS a more inclusive environment.