The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Stars shine at Best Buddies Talent Show

Anyone walking through the main entrance of Oak Park and River Forest High School on the evening of Tuesday, March 21 would have heard the sound of the orchestra concert and then, closer to the Little Theater, Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” blasting at full volume. 

If that person followed Beyonce’s upbeat melody into the Little Theater and decided to look inside, they would have seen a pair of confident girls, senior Ava Konecki and freshman Melanna Jordan, strutting and dancing in silver sparkly cowboy boots with hats to match. Friends and family members in the audience were smiling ear-to-ear, recording on their phones, proud of the girls onstage giving it their all. 

That was just one of many acts showcased at the Best Buddies Talent Show, which also included dances, rhythmic gymnastic performances, numerous singing acts, instruments played and even love ballads. In between performances, student hosts told jokes, and Tiktoks from the adaptive P.E class were shown.

Talents from students of all ages and grade levels were showcased, and even Fenwick students came across town to participate as well. What made the Best Buddies showcase stand out from a normal talent show was the collaboration. During multiple performances, Best Buddies members jumped out of their seats to join their friends in song and dance, and it was clear how much love and friendship is shared within the program.

Audience interaction was also a big factor of what created the positive atmosphere in the room. There were cheerful faces, phone flashes swaying along to the melody of the music and cheers loud enough to be heard from outside of the door. 

A stand-out moment was a cello performance of a song composed by Arioso Bach played by freshman Xavier Costello Thorp that left the crowd in awe and bursting with applause. Another crowd favorite was a rendition of “There Goes My Baby” by Usher, sung by sophomore Ariel Molden, who put on a heartfelt performance dedicated to her special someone in the crowd.

The event ended off on a bang with all participants going up to the stage to perform a group rendition of the macarena. Even after the show, the energy was a buzz with performers and parents mingling and congratulating. 

The event not only created a sense of joy and excitement but also embodied the mission of the club, which is to create a space for those with and without intellectual disabilities to make long-lasting friendships. Best Buddies sponsor Rahasad Singletary said the club gives students with intellectual disabilities a seat at the table. Not only that, the club gives its members “a voice and…a spotlight,” he said. 

Nick Johne, parent of OPRF junior Emma Johne, was thrilled with the performances and even more with the Best Buddies program. He described how Emma has been part of Best Buddies since middle school and how she has become close to each buddy she was paired with. OPRF is a large school, and sometimes it can get lonely but, “It’s nice to have friends and do social things which is what Best Buddies is all about,” he said.

A typical day within the club when not preparing for the show is always filled with fun activities. From car washes to tournaments to game nights and even rock climbing, Best Buddies has activities tailored for many different descriptions of fun. Best Buddies hosts many holiday celebrations throughout the year like Halloween parties and potlucks for Thanksgiving, but in this club, even the everyday life deserves a celebration. 

Besides Best Buddies, OPRF aims to create a space of inclusion and acceptance in the building day in and day out. The school-wide Inclusion Basketball Game last month and the talent show this month are just some of the large-scale projects that show the efforts those in the building are making at creating a safe space for all.

Anthony Clark, a teacher involved in the special education program, had a very personal take. Clark was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and attended OPRF as a teenager. He said that as a student, he felt lots of support within the building. “I never felt like I had a disability. I never carried it like a stigma,” Clark said. 

As Clark decided on a career path, he considered that, as an African American male, it was important to “provide a strong representation” and “be an additional level of support like many teachers were for me when I went to the school.” It was “extremely important to use my experiences and support of the special education program to then create more positive experiences for the next generation,” he added.

For those interested in Best Buddies, contact sponsors Singletary, Fawn Joyce or Meghan Kennedy to join the Google Classroom, or come to the South Cafeteria at 7:20 a.m. every other Thursday.

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