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UNF student is first with intellectual differences to serve as Best Buddies Florida College Chapter club president

barnett headshotBecca Barnett, student in The Arc Jacksonville On Campus Transition program at the University of North Florida, is the first person with intellectual differences to serve as a Best Buddies Florida College Chapter club president.

Barnett, who was born and raised in Jacksonville, was born with Autism and DiGeorge Syndrome, which included a major heart defect. At birth, her parents were told she was not expected to survive. After three open heart surgeries when she was in her first year of life, the outgoing and friendly Barnett has beaten all the odds.

UNF’s chapter of the national Best Buddies organization matches students who have IDDs with able students to form friendship “buddies” and help students understand the needs and abilities of people with IDDs to help them integrate successfully into society.

In Barnett’s role as chapter president, she works closely with peer buddies, planning events and hosting chapter-wide meetings. She is an inspiring role model to both able and non-able students alike and hopes to make the world a better place by helping others to be more understanding and accepting of persons with disabilities. She would like to work at Best Buddies International Headquarters after graduating.

In partnership with UNF, The Arc Jacksonville On Campus Transition college experience is the longest-running program of its kind in the southeastern US. The innovative program provides young adults with intellectual differences the unique opportunity of having a transformational college experience as an integral part of their transition to independence. Students participate in all aspects of college life by auditing UNF courses, joining campus organizations and clubs, and participating in recreational/leisure activities that are enjoyed by all UNF students. Students are mentored in academic, social, and recreation activities through mentoring programs with UNF student peers.

Founded in the 1980s, Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.