Friendship Clubs: Building Community for ALL Children

Friendship Clubs are school-sanctioned clubs located in 40 high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools throughout the South Bay, where children with special needs are paired with their peers in general education once or twice each week to eat lunch, socialize, play games, and attend school events as a group--an event full of fun, peer interaction.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South Bay

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

Through the 10 U.S. studies that have been conducted on the connection between special education children and bullying, all studies found:

- Children with special needs are 2-3 times more likely to experience bullying compared to their non-disabled peers.

- 60% of children with special needs report being bullied compared to 25% of all students.

There are 175,000 students currently enrolled in special education in Los Angeles. These students repeatedly fall through the cracks and are in tremendous need of quality resources and support. Without programs like Friendship Clubs, children with special needs do not have the opportunity to experience friendships, socialization or participation in routines and activities. Their resources become limited to doctors and therapists. This program has an impact on the entire student body as awareness of the special needs population increases. The ripple effect has the potential to change the environment and reduce bullying on campus.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Friendship Foundation is the only organization that provides both school and community programs on a consistent basis. We do this by inviting students with and without disabilities to participate in programs. We are the only organization that concentrates on socialization, communication, and enrichment for the special needs community that is not attached to behavior therapy. We allow children of all abilities to be themselves and learn from each other. It is the number one reason parents with children with disabilities favor our programs over other programs. They want their children integrated into their communities and have recognized the growth in their children because of it. We are the only organization that provides camp experiences to children starting at 5 to young adults up to age 35. Fourteen years of serving students has allowed us to define and refine our programs to serve all children.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 1,850

Indirect Impact: 800,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Friendship Clubs strive to model for our surrounding communities a lifestyle of acceptance and unity, fueled by the energetic and dedicated philanthropic students. Each club brings general education students together with special needs children and builds a community of support and encouragement around them. Participation in our programs show our student volunteers that they can have a major and long-lasting impact on others’ lives.

Parents resoundingly appreciate our outreach to schools and the general student population which brings greater awareness and education about the special needs community. Most importantly, Friendship Foundation is creating a larger web of community acceptance of the special needs community.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

FF focuses simultaneously on impacting two populations in the South Bay and surrounding communities: children with special needs and students with a willingness and desire to volunteer. FF makes it possible for children with special needs in the South Bay, a highly-underserved population, to experience social-recreational activities in a safe and bully-free environment.

FF defines a successful Friendship Club program by:

* Seeing students with disabilities and general education students socializing and building friendships on their own.

* Providing ongoing one-to-one mentoring experience for our youth with special needs and student volunteers.

* Increasing in enrollment, school clubs, and student involvement.

* Children with special needs and student volunteers feel that the experience helped them improve their lives, established new friendships and most of all felt valued and empowered.

* Students with special needs interacting during club activities and around campus outside of the Friendship Club.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​

Disability access and inclusion

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to PLAY

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Strategy assistance and implementation