By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
Saint Vincent College is home to several programs committed to helping students reach their full potential. One of the most frequently overlooked and misunderstood programs is the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program. B.E.S.T. stands for Building Excellence for Skills Training, a title that is an apt description of the goals of the program.
“One of our goals at B.E.S.T. is to get the students to their most independent self, academically, socially, and vocationally” explained Amy Hildebrand, director of the B.E.S.T program. “Students want to be a meaningful member in society, have friends and a purpose, that is what we are constantly striving for. I think that's really something all of us are striving for in our lives.” Jared Brown of Hempfield, Pa. says that “the best thing about it is you get to learn how to be independent in your life.”
The B.E.S.T program consists of both college courses and career-oriented training. Students in the program participate in more than just special education classes; each semester, they can sit in on a course offered to all students at Saint Vincent. This auditing opportunity allows students to experience the same classroom setting as any other student at Saint Vincent would. Bearcat B.E.S.T. students can often be seen in the dining center cleaning tables, but many program participants will find a job elsewhere. Anthony Brown of Norwin works in the Public Relations office while Caitlin Brinton of Penn Trafford works at Laurel Valley Graphics, the printing company that prints The Review.
In order to fulfill the social pillar of the B.E.S.T. program goals, events are organized frequently to help build relationships within the program and with the student body on campus. The Bearcat Buddies club plays an important role here. For senior early childhood education major and club president Madie Marisco, these connections have made her time on campus more meaningful.
“My favorite part of being a member of the Bearcat Buddies Club is going to the fun events that I plan with the other officers and spending time with kind people,” Marisco said.
One of the major events that the club organizes is the Halloween dance. Bearcat Buddies advisor Dr. Dawn Turkovich stated that the dance “is so popular that many B.E.S.T. alumni return for the party each year.”
This year’s Buddies Halloween dance featured activities organized in collaboration with the Psychology Club, the American Sign Language Club, and the Creative Corner club. Over 50 students participated in the event, with many wearing their costumes. Costumes included a cowgirl, Abraham Lincoln, Buzz Lightyear, and Darth Vader. Dr. Turkovich invites all students who are interested to join the Bearcat Buddies club.
“Our events are planned by the undergraduates and B.E.S.T. students together and are open to the entire campus… Our officers and members come from all departments on campus.”
All of the B.E.S.T. students I spoke to appreciate the program of the students and staff, and feel at home in a program that both nurtured them and trained them for life.