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Oakton ends the word

Best Buddies' Spread the Word to End the Word is a success

The banner signed by A and B lunches to stop the use of the r-word.

The banner signed by A and B lunches to stop the use of the r-word.

Jennifer Coon, Copy Editor

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  On March 8, Best Buddies held their annual Spread the Word to End the Word day. This campaign is meant for people to stop the use of the r-word or “retard.” This derogatory word has been used to describe people with mental disabilities in the past, and Best Buddies wants to discontinue the use of the word and spread respect to all people. This message is an international movement, with nearly 700,000 online pledges to stop the use of the r-word this year on March 1.

  To commemorate the movement, Oakton’s Best Buddies hosted a school-wide event by allowing students to sign the banner to pledge that they will not use the r-word and be served free Ledo’s Pizza for everyone who signed the pledge during all lunches. In addition, special guest Tommy McFly, a radio host from 94.7 Fresh FM, came to celebrate with Best Buddies and the student body as a part of his Spread the Word to End the Word school tour.

  The event was still a success, with one of the two banners being filled up by the end of B lunch, despite the fact that the official Spread the Word to End the Word day was on March 1. Best Buddies was still tweeting about the day and encouraging students to take the online pledge on March 1, but it was difficult to do so because of the Capitol Hill field trip for all of the seniors on the same day. However, it may have been better to postpone Best Buddies’ event to ensure it gets the attention it deserves. “It’s great that we could do it to dedicate it to Oakton,” said Sarah Williams (12), president of Best Buddies’ Oakton chapter. “All of our Buddies feel like rockstars today,… and we couldn’t do it without our seniors,” Williams said.

  Not only is the event itself impactful, but the organization of Best Buddies in general is an unique opportunity students can have. Building friendships with students with mental disabilities with common bonds and interests can make a student’s high school experience memorable with the long-lasting friendships and lifelong memories that student will carry with them outside of Oakton. Senior Niamh Carlos has been a member of Best Buddies for three years and says the club is important because “everyone deserves friendship.” She spreads the word to end the word because it is disrespectful to everyone, regardless of their abilities, and there are other words these close-minded people can use instead of using the r-word.

  Ms. Sascha Reed, a Special Education teacher and advisor for Best Buddies Oakton, also notes the impact the organization has had on her. Ms. Reed said she first heard about it her first year of teaching four years ago, and this is her third year as being advisor of Best Buddies. “It’s amazing to watch my students with disabilities develop,” said Ms. Reed. She also said that her students grow more confidence through Best Buddies; it even makes them feel proud to be Oakton students. The reason Ms. Reed spreads the word to end the word is because she believes that there is no need for extra hate in the world. The goal of the campaign is to “spread respectful language and make people’s lives easier,” Ms. Reed said.

  McFly is also a dedicated supporter of Best Buddies. He first learned about the organization six years ago through his job. “Best Buddies jumped out and grabbed my heart,” said McFly. He continues to support Best Buddies and the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign because of his personal experience. When he was in high school, a radio host came to his high school, talked about the message, and also gave out pizza to the entire student body, and; McFly thought it was an unique experience that he wanted to have as well.

  Even though Spread the Word to End the Word is a global movement and Best Buddies is around the world, there are some unique attributes that Oakton has that other schools might not. One of the reasons the Best Buddies chapter at Oakton is special is because of its large number of members. As one of the biggest clubs at Oakton, it’s a great way to meet new people and become close with other members. “We’re all really close and do lots of activities together,… and we promote friendship together,” said Carlos. Ms. Reed and Williams also described that the inclusiveness at Oakton is one of the characteristics that makes Oakton’s Best Buddies special. Ms. Reed said that Oakton is very inclusive, perhaps more than other schools, with multiple social groups involved in the club. Not only is a significant amount of Oakton’s population involved in the club, but it also ensures inclusion of students with mental disabilities. “(They) are a vital part of the community,” Williams said. Williams also said that the message of ending the r-word is important to everyone, including people with and without mental disabilities, which is something that Best Buddies strives to instill in its members and the outside community. McFly also described the caliber that Oakton has with its program. In Washington, D.C. alone, there are 50 fantastic Best Buddies programs, but Oakton’s is known as one of the best in the country. “The Peer Buddies here (the students without disabilities) are incredible and more courageous than I was in high school,” McFly said. He also said that the students and advisor are still “making it vibrant” at Oakton.

  The Best Buddies event was also a part of McFly’s tour. The tour consists of stops to different schools in the area to help each school celebrate Spread the Word to End the Word. This is the second year of McFly’s tour, and he was only going to schools he hasn’t gone to before, so McFly was originally not going to come to Oakton this year. However, the application and letter he received from Oakton’s Best Buddies was “incredible and passionate,” so McFly decided to return to the school where it all started.

  Spread the Word to End the Word proved to be a success. With Ledo’s Pizza serving pizza to students and McFly making an appearance, the majority of the student body signed the pledge to stop using the r-word. Signing the pledge supports such a great cause, and in the words of McFly, “This banner is much more than Oakton.” Best Buddies is grateful for everyone who signed the pledge to stop the use of the r-word and offensive language and, instead, spread respect in the Oakton community.

   Below is a gallery of the entire event!

 

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