Seventeen year old Lindsay Steudtner can teach us all a thing or two about loyalty and friendship.
by Karyn Brodsky | Staff Writer
When people think of individuals with disabilities they sometimes focus on what they can’t do. A college-bound student from Plano recognizes what her “differently-abled” friend can do and has remained a true friend for the past ten years.
Lindsay Steudtner, Plano West High School graduate and rising freshman at the University of Arkansas, met Sydney Pizette in third grade. In fourth grade they had different teachers, but that didn’t interfere with their friendship. “Every morning, Sydney would wave and say hi to me before class,” says Steudtner. As the months passed the two got closer, and at the end-of-the-year party in fifth grade, their mothers met. Soon, the two students had after-school plans. “At that age, I didn’t understand Sydney’s disability,” explains Steudtner, “but I wasn’t a kid to judge. I think that’s why she kept coming back to talk to me and be around me.”
In middle school, Steudtner learned more about Sydney. She says she also learned a lot about herself. “I understood more about Sydney’s disability at that age, and I learned patience,” notes Steudtner. She recognized that special needs kids tend to act differently because they don’t always understand things completely. Adds Steudtner, “I knew I had to be patient to help [her] understand.”
The friendship blossomed in high school, where Steudtner went to Sydney’s dance recitals and family events, accompanied her to the mall, movies and restaurants, and decorated her locker for her birthday. She volunteered as a Peer Assistant at school and specifically asked to be assigned to Sydney’s class. Outside of school, Lindsay joined the local chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that matches general education students with special education peers. The group organizes special events and requires a once-a-week touch base and a twice per month outing between buddies. When it comes to Sydney, Steudtner has gone above and beyond the requirements. According to Samantha Moran, Best Buddies Texas Program Manager, this is when “a true friendship has developed.”
Lindsay has made a special connection with Sydney. “I know what Sydney would order at a restaurant, I know her favorite music and I know that she tells everyone about me,” beams Steudtner. “Whenever we’re together, other people know who I am even if I don’t know them.” As for Sydney, her feelings for Lindsay are clear: “I love Lindsay. I’m going to miss her so much. I love how she picks me up and we have sleepovers. She takes me to Fat Straws and the movies. She is nice and pretty and she’s my best buddy. She is my friend. She makes me happy.”
Sydney’s mom, Karen Pizette, says her daughter calls Lindsay her best friend and the whole family adores Lindsay. “She’s been an incredible friend to Sydney. We’ve been so blessed.” She notes that many family memories include Steudtner, including a photo taken of the girls together every 4th of July. Adds Pizette. “It’s hard [for those with disabilities] to make close friendships. It takes special people like Lindsay, who speaks with her heart. She really has a gift.”
Soon, Steudtner will be off to college, with studies, socializing, and campus life on her mind. But, she’s committed to making Sydney a part of it. Plans are already made for the Pizette family to visit so Sydney can see Lindsay’s dorm room, experience the college environment and attend a football game. Sydney’s mom admits Steudtner’s departure to college is bittersweet. “We’re so happy for her, but we’re going to miss her. We know we’ll always be in touch.”
As for Lindsay, though she will major in Interior Design, she plans to maintain her affiliation with Best Buddies. “Sydney has become such a part of my life, as well as all the special education students,” says Steudtner. “They always smile and make my day brighter. I would love to work with them when I’m in college.”
For her genuine commitment to helping those with disabilities as well as offering sincere friendship and loyalty, Good Life Family awards Lindsay Steudtner our Good Kids Award and a $250 scholarship.
Note: Best Buddies is an international organization with chapters in all 50 states and more than 50 countries. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, who saw a need for “true, authentic friends” for disabled individuals while a student at Georgetown University. His mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics. By matching a general education student with a special education student, Best Buddies creates an atmosphere where friendships can develop and grow. For more information, see bestbuddiestexas.org.
The GOOD KID Award is presented to a student aged 12 to 21 who displays exemplary character, courage and personal values and, who, without asking for attention for their efforts, causes others to take notice. For their genuine commitment to helping a person, organization and/or their community, the winner of the Good Kid Award receives a Certificate of Achievement and a $250 scholarship. To nominate a student for this prestigious award, go to www.goodlifefamilymag.com or email Tricia White, Managing Editor, at Trica@GoodLifeFamilyMag.com.