Buddies spread friendship throughout Milford High School

Photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Karen Jorgensen, left, and Skylar Curtis will graduate Saturday from Milford High School.

MILFORD – Karen Jorgensen and Skylar Curtis, who will graduate from Milford High School on Saturday morning, have been close friends since the fourth grade.

They know well how their friendship has enriched their lives, and they also know that for people with disabilities, making friends can be a problem. Curtis has an older sister with disabilities. Jorgensen’s mother is a special education teacher.

So three years ago when the high school’s reading teacher, Melissa Dietz, who has a son with special needs, approached them about Best Buddies, they readily agreed to help found the Milford High School chapter of the international nonprofit organization.

This year, Milford High has 25-30 members, meaning there are about 12 “Buddy Pairs.”

Best Buddies encourages one-on-one friendships called Buddy Pairs and “tries to bridge the gap between students who have disabilities and those who haven’t,” Jorgensen said.

“We both love a lot of those students,” so it was an easy decision, Jorgensen said.

Love can bring pain, however. When Milford High senior Kolby Kelley, who had Down syndrome, died this year, Curtis and Jorgensen took it hard. Jorgensen sang “Amazing Grace” at his memorial service, and Curtis sang “Sunshine On My Shoulders” at the post-memorial gathering at Pasta Loft.

The two friends are quiet and unassuming, Principal Bradford Craven said, calling them “wonderful young women who are a tremendous force for good around here.”

Both are in the National Honor Society, the Spanish Club, the choral group, West Street Beat and Tri-M music honor society. Curtis is the historian of Tri-M’s Milford chapter.

Their interest in the disabled extends to the hard of hearing. Both studied American Sign Language at the high school and taught sign language classes at the middle school.

Curtis, who has been working as an intern at Amherst Label, will attend Manchester Community College in the fall to study graphic design. She designed the Milford Best Buddies T-shirt.

Jorgensen, who just finished a student-teaching internship at Heron Pond Elementary School, will go to Gordon College in Massachusetts to study elementary education.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.