Rachel Iserson: Best Buddies Volunteer

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Name: Rachel Iserson

Age: 19

Year: Sophomore

Hometown: Weston, FL

Major: Family and Child Sciences 

Courtesy: Rachel Iserson

Her Campus (HC): Tell us about the organization Best Buddies.

Rachel Ierson (RI): Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that promotes inclusion for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization does so through one-on-one friendships, finding adequate jobs for the individuals after they graduate, and giving those with disabilities a better say in society. FSU’s Best Buddies chapter forms one-on-one friendships throughout the Tallahassee community. We host events on campus and even hold a walk to spread the mission of Best Buddies further into the panhandle of Florida.

HC: How did you first get involved with Best Buddies?

RI: I first joined Best Buddies during my freshman year of high school. I never considered having a one-on-one peer buddy until I met Gianella. Gianella is one of the most inspiring, fun loving, hilarious and all around amazing people I have ever met. She fit in perfectly with my group of friends and never let her disability stand in her way. When I heard that she didn’t have a buddy, I automatically signed up to have her as mine. After my freshman year had ended, I asked to be her buddy again and kept this peer-buddy friendship until I graduated high school.

HC: What made you decide to continue your involvement beyond high school and at FSU?

RI: I stayed involved with Best Buddies because the organization impacted my life more than I initially thought it would. I found a true passion for working with those with disabilities and discovered that this may be something I want to do for the rest of my life. I have continued to participate in Best Buddies in college by joining the collegiate chapter here at FSU. I was the chair of the first ever Tallahassee Friendship Walk and am now an Activities Coordinator on the executive board.

HC: What are your current responsibilities as Activities Coordinator?

RI: I work alongside one other woman to ensure that all the events are planned and executed properly. This means working within the budget to get everything needed for events and advertising it so that people come and are aware of Best Buddies.

HC: Tell us about the buddies you have had.

RI: My buddy all throughout high school was Gianella. She is a few years older than me. Every Halloween or Valentine’s Day dance, she would be the first one on the dance floor and we literally never left unless she needed water. We also loved frozen yogurt dates and she would tell me all of her gossip about boys. Although I graduated and moved to FSU, our friendship is still the same. I never hesitate to pick up the phone to call her and she does the same. At FSU, my current buddy is Kerri. We have only been buddies for a few months now, but she texts me all the time. She is an avid horseback rider and has an optimistic outlook on absolutely everything. I can’t wait to see where our friendship takes us these next few years. 

Courtesy: Rachel Iserson

RI: During my senior year of high school, I attended the International Leadership Conference in Bloomington, Indiana. At the conference, I stayed in the dorms at Indiana University with other high school executive board members. I learned all about how Best Buddies works on an international level and other programs Best Buddies offers that I had never known about. I left that conference with more passion and pride about the mission of Best Buddies and couldn’t want to bring back all I learned to my chapter at home.

HC: What do you love about Best Buddies?

RI: Although it is hard to sum up in words what I love most about Best Buddies, I would say that it’s having the opportunity to work with such diverse people. I love getting to know the different buddies, their passions and what their talents are. I always end up having a great time, whether we’re dancing, talking or even just doing arts and crafts.

HC: What have your experiences taught you?

RI: Best Buddies has taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I have learned to never to look at someone differently or judge anyone. A disability should not separate people; if anything, it should show you that just because someone has a disability, just means that they shine in other ways. One of the most important things I have taken away from my experiences with Best Buddies is the “Spread The Word To End The Word” campaign. This campaign urges people to end the use of the r-word. Whether I know you or not, when I hear this word being said, I will politely let you know how derogatory the word really is and explain how it is misused in society.

HC: Why are you so passionate about philanthropy?

RI: I believe that it is so easy to take for granted all that I am handed in life. I have realized through working with Best Buddies how lucky I really am and how much better it feels to give back. The best part about philanthropy is giving back to something you really love and getting something right back for it.

HC: For anyone interested in Best Buddies, how can they get involved?

RI: The best way to get involved is to come to our events on campus. Also, you can e-mail [email protected] to be added to the e-mail list and keep up to date with upcoming socials we have planned.

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About The Author

Shelby Curran is a senior at Florida State University majoring in English with a concentration in Editing, Writing, and Media and minoring in Communications.