Feature Stories

Excelsior Elementary School Receives Award From Best Buddies International

The Best Buddies school chapter at Excelsior Elementary School was presented with the 2022-2023 Overall Outstanding Chapter Award last month at the 2023 Best Buddies Leadership Conference: Reunited for Inclusion. Excelsior Elementary was selected from a pool of several finalist Best Buddies Elementary School programs from around the world.

“This is a prestigious award given out annually,” shared Katey DeMarais, state director of Best Buddies in Minnesota. “Receiving this award is a testament to the hard work and dedication that Best Buddies advisor Kelly Pederson has put in to implement inclusive curriculum at her school, support the Best Buddies mission and share the power of friendship and belonging with students and staff.”

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“It’s our goal to have a Best Buddies program in every one of our schools across the district,” said Christine Breen, executive director of special education for Minnetonka Schools. “I’m so proud of the students, staff and families at Excelsior who are working together to build inclusive friendships and foster belonging and connection in their school community.”  

The Best Buddies chapter at Excelsior Elementary, where all students at the school participate in monthly Best Buddies curriculum and activities, began in 2022. Watch a video highlighting the program on the Best Buddies website.

“Our Best Buddies program allows teachers to help their students learn about the importance of inclusion,” Kelly Pederson, Excelsior’s chapter advisor, said. “Our differences make us uniquely beautiful! When we are brave enough to get to know someone different from us, we may just meet our best friend. That is the power of Best Buddies.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Minnetonka Middle School West Best Buddies chapter president, Audrey Hauser, accepted the award on the school and district’s behalf with Best Buddies founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver and other special guests.

Girls smiling

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