Dean College

  • Student Experience: Why I Joined Best Buddies

    best buddies at dean college

    Tori Swillum is a first-year Dance major and President of the Best Buddies Club at Dean. Prior to attending Dean, Tori volunteered for Best Buddies, an organization close to her heart. Read on to learn more about Tori’s experience volunteering. 

    I decided to become involved with Best Buddies without even knowing it. In the middle of my junior year in high school I was approached by a special education teacher at my school, she started explaining the program to me and then asked me if I'd like to be the first chapter president. After doing some research about Best Buddies I of course accepted the position. I was already very involved with the special education department at school because my twin brother Dylan has down syndrome. During my school day, I'd always go say hi to him and his friends and occasionally have lunch with them. I believe I was chosen for president because a couple of weeks before a parent presented Best Buddies to my high school, I ran a fundraiser for Down Syndrome Awareness Day and I think this showed my passion for the subject. Not knowing where this would take me or what this would entail I was excited to be involved and honored to be chosen as chapter president. 

    Growing up my brother Dylan was always pretty popular at school, everyone loved him, however once school hours were over he didn't have many friends that he could invite over the house. As we grew older it became more apparent that he was treated differently and was unable to have the opportunities that I had, I didn't like this and I wanted to make a change in one way or another. I tried my best to include him in as much as I could but sometimes it was just hard, I wanted him to have friends, get a job, be able to go out, participate in sports etc.  When I heard about Best Buddies I knew that I had to be involved because not only is it a great program for Dylan but it's changed my life as well.

    My absolute favorite thing I've done regarding Best Buddies aside from hanging out with my buddies was attending the annual Leadership Conference which is held at Indiana University in the summer. I have been lucky enough to go to this annual conference twice in my high school career. Not only is this experience life changing but it's always so inspirational and motivational. There's just something about being in an area of people that all carry the same passion that you have, it's so uplifting. Being at this conference gave me hope in society that something is changing and the opportunities for children and adults with mental and developmental disabilities are uprising. My favorite part of the conference was the speeches that some of the buddies gave and listening to their stories is so inspirational.

    My advice for anyone looking to join Best Buddies is just do it! Join and I promise you won't regret it. Even if you just have a slight interest in it, go to a meeting or an event just to see what it's all about and chances are you'll be hooked. 

    When I arrived at Dean majoring in Dance I was so excited to see what opportunities were ahead. During my introduction to dance major class we discussed some career options for dance majors and one of them jumped out at me, Dance Therapy. While dance therapy can be used for just about anything from anxiety, depression, autism, and down syndrome, I knew it was worth looking into. Now I have a career that I can combine both my passions and I couldn't be more excited to continue my studies at Dean.

    To learn more about how you can get involved, visit

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