Johnny Buchanan: Chapter President of the Year

For some students, community service is a daunting ten- or twenty-hour requirement filled with scooping mashed potatoes for the homeless or helping elderly folks enjoy their “senior prom.” But for junior Johnny Buchanan, community service has become something to which he looks forward, as he is an active participant in Best Buddies. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Johnny was named Chapter President of the Year a couple of weeks ago. Humble as always, he agreed to chat with me about his involvement in the club, and why Best Buddies holds a special place in his heart.

Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to build friendships between students and people with special needs. Because his older sister, Rachel, has Down Syndrome, Johnny says that he’s always had a passion for “advocating for inclusion and working with kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Naturally, he was drawn to participating in the Best Buddies club right from his freshman year. His enthusiasm and dedication made him the club president this year, and he couldn’t be happier. He admits that although coordinating Latin’s schedule with their buddies from The Esperanza School can sometimes be tricky, all of the hard work is well worth it. When they pay a visit, club participants and their buddies get to play games, then eat lunch together in the cafeteria. Johnny mentioned that the buddies especially love being able to eat in the cafeteria, because they get to interact with new people. This provides a welcome change from their usual routine, since their school is rather small. Another hit event is Latin’s annual Best Buddies/Misericordia dance, where students from The Esperanza School and Chicago’s Misericordia Home are treated to an evening of dancing and refreshments while mingling with each other and Latin students.

Two weeks ago, six members of Latin’s chapter of Best Buddies attended the annual Walk of Friendship at Loyola University, along with representatives from Best Buddies chapters all over Illinois. After the walk, the event coordinators gathered everyone together for an award ceremony. Suddenly, Johnny heard his named called for the Chapter President of the Year award. He was shocked, considering some schools had brought as many as fifty representatives to the walk, but he was still pleasantly surprised. Johnny says that he was “ecstatic and so honored to receive the award,” but also adds that he “couldn’t have done anything without [his] co-president, Tyler Hagedorn, [his] vice presidents, Eden Pritikin and Morgan Sulger, and the endless support of all the students in the club.” Every member’s enthusiasm and dedication makes their mission so much easier. Johnny has high hopes for Latin’s chapter of the club. He says, “Our Buddies inspire us to be better people, and I hope that more people at Latin will be able to experience what our club is all about.” The Best Buddies dance will be coming up soon, so don’t forget to show your support by volunteering. And even if you’re already loyal to another service organization, you can continue channeling the same great energy into it.