Find It Fast

Stories of Stevenson: Samantha Gingiss

District Communications
article banner for Stories of Stevenson featuring student Samantha Gingiss
Stevenson student Samantha Gingiss laughing.

For Samantha Gingiss, joining Best Buddies was a hope she had since elementary school. She fondly recalls her time spent with children with intellectual disabilities during a program at Ivy Hall Elementary. Her eagerness to join Best Buddies at Stevenson grew when she learned that her mother started a Best Buddies chapter in college. “When I attended the Co-Curricular Fair at Stevenson, I knew I wanted to join Best Buddies because I've been following it since fifth grade. My mom and I share the same passion for working with kids who have disabilities.”

Samantha says, spending time with these students feels “very normal and natural.” She values how Best Buddies has “taught me to work with a variety of personalities and people. Through this club, I discovered my love for working with kids with disabilities. This summer, I'm working at NSSRA, a summer camp for kids with intellectual disabilities.”

However, Best Buddies is more than just a passion for Samantha; it feels like family. “The connectivity of the club surprised me. During my freshman year, I tried various clubs, but none had the same family feel as Best Buddies. After a long school day, everyone comes back simply to have fun together.”

Samantha emphasizes the club’s fun aspect: “We do Just Dance almost every week, and the YMCA is a favorite. It's amazing to see everyone in unison doing the YMCA dance and having fun.”

Despite occasional challenges, Samantha remains positive. “The hardest part, but not at all a bad part, is adapting activities for our buddies with limitations. Sometimes a buddy can't participate in a sport or coloring, so we come up with creative ways to keep them engaged. This leads to more thoughtful and enjoyable activities.”

Stevenson student Samantha Gingiss with a Best Buddy student during Field Day.

She adds, “Our buddies are aware of their abilities, and our peers do a great job ensuring they don't feel discouraged. They always have an alternate activity ready for them.”

The fun extends beyond school. Samantha and her buddy recently went to Hawthorn Mall. “She loves pink and she has so many different pairs of shoes and loves collecting things. We thought shopping would be a great idea. We got her a little keychain for her wheelchair, so we always remember our trip to Hawthorn together. Planning outside events strengthens our bond.”

Beyond organizing outside events, several of our students participate in the Allied Soccer Team, providing the opportunity to be involved in team sports. The Allies for Allied Celebration was held recently, marking the year's end for our Allied Soccer team. Samantha explains, “It's a fantastic way to bring people together to celebrate the game and the players. It raises awareness and acceptance at Stevenson.”

She highlights the excitement and anticipation the buddies feel: “The buddies are always thrilled to spend time with others. They look forward to Best Buddies because they know they'll have fun. This celebration is the same – knowing people support and accept them is important to them.”

group photo of the Allied Soccer team during an event at the stadium.

Samantha highlights the significance of community events: “It brings awareness at Stevenson. We’re so lucky to go to a school with so many diverse people. I think having awareness or acceptance of any type of person is really important. That comes with having empathy and compassion.”

To anyone who has thought about joining Best Buddies, Samantha emphasizes the importance of being yourself and staying true to your personality. “You can’t overthink it. They are the same as any other kid. You don’t need to be different or act differently. I think that’s a big misconception that people have. But they are normal kids – normal high school kids.”

Group photo of the Stevenson Best Buddies club.