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Higley Best Buddies plan next talent show

 Best Buddies Club
The second annual Best Buddies Talent show, presented by the Higley High School Best Buddies club, will fill the Higley Center for the Performing arts with performances by students with special needs and more on April 26.
The Best Buddies club is a chapter of an international nonprofit that seeks to increase opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Following an overwhelmingly positive response to the first event, the club’s upcoming talent show will return to feature 14 performances by students, recognition for graduating seniors and a teacher performance. 
Brittany Wittenberg, a special education teacher and Best Buddies advisor at Higley, said the event will help bridge the gap between her students’ comfort levels in the classroom and in everyday environments. Through Best Buddies, the students grow and their fears of showing their skills to a large audience are lessened.
“These kids are capable of so much and should have high standards,” Wittenberg said. “Sometimes, people don’t see that in them. It’s my job to make sure that everyone sees the greatness in everybody. That drives me.”
Throughout the night, videos by Higley High senior Izzy Opfel will play, highlighting accomplishments made by Best Buddies in the school year. One of these accomplishments has been raising $1,945 at the Arizona’s Best Buddies Friendship Walk, placing the club ninth in the state.
Opfel said her goal is to show the community how important students with special needs are, while helping the students feel loved.
“I love the kids and I love spending time with them,” Opfel said. “It makes them happy to do (the talent show), so I’m happy to do it with them.”
Megan Jorgensen, a senior and special education student at Higley High, will dance to “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber with her buddy Aubrey Tapia, the president of Best Buddies. Like many of the talent show performers, she said the event is something she loves to participate in for fun.
“My favorite part is doing humongous jazz hands,” Jorgensen said.
Other acts will include comedy and a drum battle.
Last year, the audience filled up every seat in the theatre, with 200 additional people waiting to see the show. This year, the event will be in the HCPA concert hall, which will accommodate a much larger audience. Wittenberg said hopes the entire community is inspired support Best Buddies by filling up the venue once again.
“Just being present makes a difference in so many ways and it makes our kids extremely happy,” Wittenberg said. “It’s something they’ll never forget. They still talked about it when we started up this school year.”
The talent show will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Proceeds from the $2 admission will contribute to the club’s national Best Buddies membership fee.
In addition to this event, the club connects students together for other activities. Earlier this school year, students attended the sixth annual Best Buddies prom at the Arizona Science Center. The event was hosted by the Best Buddies of Arizona. The theme was Buddy Prom: The Friendship Awakens, a play on Star Wars
“I had a really fun time,” junior and Best Buddies student Sariah Fairbanks said. “I really liked dressing up as a Star Wars character.”
Attendees were able to enjoy a dance floor as well as all of the exhibits that the Science Center has to offer.
“I had a lot of fun putting it all together and coordinating rides for everyone,” Tapia said. “I was a very heart-warming thing. There was so much inclusion and it was full of love.”