The Catholic University of America

March 19, 2010

CUA’s Best Buddies Chapter Recognized by Maryland Organization

Erin Flynn (right) and her buddy Sherry celebrate CUA’s Best Buddies Award.

The CUA Chapter of Best Buddies, which pairs a student with a person with intellectual disabilities, was recently awarded the Most Improved Chapter Award by Best Buddies of Maryland.

The CUA chapter received the honor at the 6th Annual Best of Maryland Awards Ceremony held earlier this month at Reservoir High School in Fulton, Md.

At the beginning of each academic year, CUA’s Best Buddies commit to meeting with their “buddies” at least once every two weeks, and talking to them weekly by phone. Many of the students also go to weekly dinners at Bethlehem House, a home in Brookland for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Last year, group members were finding it difficult to organize meetings on a regular basis. Aware of the demands on their time, Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, associate campus minister for community service and adviser for Best Buddies, says she wondered if the group should “take a year off” to reorganize and become stronger.

Instead, Mendoza Waters, who was a Best Buddy herself when she attended CUA in the late ’90s, says she decided to look for a young student, full of enthusiasm about the organization, to be the next director and energize her peers, encouraging them to be more active.

Sophomore Erin Flynn, a theology and religious studies major from Long Island, N.Y., fit the job description of college buddy director. She was a member as a freshman and passionate about the organization.

“She has tons of energy and turned the organization around,” Mendoza Waters says about Flynn.
Flynn has helped turn the chapter become more active and visible on campus. Not only are the members meeting regularly with one another, they have also been educating their peers. On March 3, the group set up a table in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center for “Spread the Word to End the Word,” a national movement to encourage people to not use the word “retarded.” They also have invited their buddies to events on campus, including a dance and a pajama party.

“When I accepted this leadership position, my main goal was to make Best Buddies more active in the school community and make the buddies feel accepted,” Flynn says. “I never dreamed that the chapter would make so much progress in one year.”

In addition to being named most improved chapter, the CUA group was also a finalist for the Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award. Two buddy pairs were nominated for Outstanding Buddy Pair of the Year and Mendoza Waters was nominated for College Advisor of the Year. Flynn was also a finalist for College Buddy Director of the Year.