The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Best Buddies partners with EUSO to celebrate National Down Syndrome Day

David Castañeda
Attendees of the National Down Syndrome Day event share a laugh with one another while working on crafts. March 20, 2024.

Best Buddies partnered for the first time with the English Undergraduate Student Organization (EUSO) to create a mini books and short stories workshop in O’Donnell Hall on March 20 to celebrate National Down Syndrome Day. 

Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that helps “create opportunities for one-to-one friendships with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD),” said Leah Downey, President of Best Buddies at NMSU.

The organization has spread to most high schools in Las Cruces, but is yet to reach middle schools and elementary schools. Anyone is welcome to join the NMSU Best Buddies chapter, regardless of age or whether they are a student. Downey elaborated on why Best Buddies is so important to her. 

I think my biggest one [reason] is my uncle,” Downey said. “He’s my dad’s twin and he was born with autism … he’s influenced my life in really big ways.” 

President of Best Buddies, Leah Downey, helps members with their crafts. March 20, 2024. (David Castañeda)

She discussed how she noticed that her uncle would often stay at home and only hang out with their family. When she found out about Best Buddies in high school, she had an appreciation for the welcoming community.   

… This is exactly what everybody needs to be having and be a part of, because nobody should just be at home alone and not have friends or not have opportunities to do things … even just call or text on when you need to talk to somebody,” Downey said. 

Downey approached Maria Mendoza, President of EUSO, with the idea of collaborating. Mendoza is also a member of Best Buddies. She and Downey decided to hold this event because pursuing a career in storytelling might not be encouraged for people with IDD. 

“There’s a printing press called Cow Printing that publishes books from individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Mendoza said.  “So, it’s possible for them to become writers if they still want to.”  

Jada Witmer attended the event with her two sons. Her oldest son, Jonah, has autism and childhood apraxia of speech. Her younger son, Micah, has autism and ADHD. 

“So, I’ve first heard about Best Buddies about two years ago, when my oldest son was invited to the Best Buddies prom,” she said. “That was at Las Cruces High School, and one of the organizers was Leah.” 

A year later, they discovered the NMSU Best Buddies chapter, which hosts various outings for members to get involved and feel a sense of community.

Members of Best Buddies brought their families and friends to the National Down Syndrome Day event on March 20, 2024. (David Castañeda)

“I think they [her sons] have really blossomed within this program,” Witmer said.  

Micah explained part of his plans to write a comic book series. 

“This deity creature was a woman named Declan, the strongest and one of the most beautiful — she went to the dunes where an angel appeared and gave her the helm of Declom,” he said. 

Jada elaborated on how parents of children who have received a diagnosis should try to be patient with their child, and be patient with themselves. She said that people with IDD will change and grow throughout life, just like everyone else.

“That child is going to grow,” Witmer said. “That child is going to change. You might get a great big laundry list of things that the doctor says your child would never do, never achieve — but guess what? That child is going to do a lot more than the doctor predicts, because a doctor does not have a glass bowl to tell the future,” she said. 

Best Buddies will have their annual Friendship Walk on Saturday, April 13 at Las Cruces High School. All are welcome to participate.

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About the Contributors
Pablo Perea
Pablo Perea, Staff Writer
Pablo Perea is in his first semester as a staff writer at The Round Up, studying animation with a minor in journalism. He feels that in animation, the most important thing is storytelling. In the short time he has been with The Round Up, he has attended some very memorable events.  "To draw in life, you must experience it" is a quote that Pablo resonates with.   
David Castañeda
David Castañeda, Multimedia Director
David Castañeda is starting his second year here at The Round Up, this being his first year as Multimedia Director. This is his second year at New Mexico State University and is majoring in Journalism & Media Studies. He was born and raised in El Paso, Texas as an only child but is extremely happy to be able to call Las Cruces his new home. David has had an affinity for photography since he was in elementary school and has only fallen deeper in love with the art through this job. Though David enjoys nothing more than to be behind a camera he loves to try to explore new hobbies and career options. He’s currently focused on improving his photography at The Round Up and working with the Multimedia Specialists to make the Multimedia team the best it can be. When he isn’t taking photos or editing them on Photoshop, David loves to spend his time with his 3-year-long girlfriend in their apartment where they frequently cuddle up in bed to watch some trash TV and films. On his own, he loves to play the bass and listen to music. His favorite artists are The Strokes and Gorillaz.    

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  • J

    JTApr 13, 2024 at 8:12 AM

    What an awesome group!