Making a difference in the lives of youth with special needs!

Friendship Club

Friendship Club

Our Program

Friendship Club is a school sanctioned inclusion program that promotes friendship and acceptance for students with special needs and their general education peers. Our program is actively engaged at 35 schools in 10 school districts within the South Bay and Los Angeles area.  Friendship Club serves at the elementary, middle and high school levels in public, private and charter schools. Students typically meet during their lunch break or after school to socialize and participate in teacher lead activities. At club meetings, they look forward to pizza parties, bubble shows, drum circle, puppy therapy, dance class and much more! By having a safe and fun space to socialize, students are able to build genuine friendships and learn new social skills.

Our Purpose

The Friendship Club inclusion program is designed to empower students of all abilities to positively impact the lives of their peers through our one-to-one buddy system model.  Student(s) with special needs are paired with their general education peers and work together to play board games, make neat art projects, play music instruments, and participate in fitness exercises.  These fun and interactive activities bridge awareness for students in special education who often feel isolated and left out of school activities.  We believe that when students have a greater sense of belonging, they feel confident about their abilities and have the courage to make a difference in society.

How Friendship Club Started

Friendship Foundation opened its doors thirteen years ago and started with a monthly “Sunday Circle" program for 8 children with special needs and 22 teen volunteers.  Soon thereafter, our teen volunteers asked if they could open a school club on their campus to increase peer interaction with students in special education.  We loved the idea and established our first Friendship Club at Mira Costa High School, Palos Verdes High School and Redondo Union High School.  Today, Friendship Club continues to build bridges within the South Bay community by inspiring high school students to form collaborative partnerships with their neighborhood elementary school's Special Day Class programs.

To start a club at your school, please email michelle@friendshipfoundation.com

Our Impact

Victor Elementary School
Teresa Vuong, School Counselor & Rebecca San Roman, SDC Teacher
For the past few years, Victor Elementary School has had the privilege and support from the Friendship Foundation to make our special needs buddy club, Making Waves, possible on our school campus. The Friendship Foundation has provided us with crafts supplies so students can decorate their own pumpkins and frost cookies on their favorite holidays. Students also look forward to their monthly pizza party where they get to share a meal together, socialize with their peers and play board games. One of their favorite activities is making crafts projects with volunteers from West High School’s Friendship Club and ending their club meeting with a sweet treat! Thank you Friendship Foundation for helping us Make Waves at Victor Elementary School!
Jane Addams Middle School
Steven McCann, School Counselor & David Navarro, ELA Teacher
During the 7 years of hosting Friendship Club at Jane Addams Middle School, we have not ceased to be amazed at the rich blessings that come from our club. We see the positive impact on our school culture in larger scale school gatherings, in addition to the one-on-one interactions between buddies. We have witnessed a type of selflessness, caring and empathetic culture at JAMS that we have not seen anywhere else on our campus! Friendship Club not only creates genuine friendships between peers but also develops leadership skills at the middle school level. One of the most recent and impactful project from our students included a school-wide effort to put together over 1,000 care kits for the homeless on Skid Row and raising funds to purchase goats for an African Village. For these reasons, the program belongs to our students and continues to exist at JAMS
Leuzinger High School
Noah Kaiser, District APE Teacher & Bethany A., Club President
Every great team needs an even more amazing coach and that is exactly what describes Mr. Kaiser's role at Leuzinger High School's Friendship Club. Thanks to Mr. Kaiser, we have been exposed to greater opportunities that have really helped to build the bond between all members of Friendship Club. We've had pizza parties, bubble shows and planned field trips to enrich the friendships between general education and special education students. As part of our weekly club meetings, we are brought together simply to make friends and enjoy each others company. Mr. Kaiser knew how to make everyone feel safe and accepted. He did just that by opening up the school gym so our club members could have exclusive time to bond by playing various team sports and team building activities. Although our school year was cut short, we have remained strong thanks to Mr. Kaiser's support for his students.
Da Vinci High School
Anne Tittle, Speech & Language Pathologist & Kaiya A., Club President
"Friendship Club at Da Vinci High School was one of my favorite things to be a part of this year. Every Friday was a great experience with my peers and with Ms. Tittle’s support we have been able to make our lunch time meetings a fun place. I loved seeing the smiles on my friends faces when we would make friendship bracelets or watch movies. I encourage everyone to join Friendship Club because it is an amazing experience for all students".
West Torrance High School
Shelly Thompson, GeoScience Teacher & Viraj A., Club President
For as long as I have been a leader in my community, I have always been a strong advocate for Disability Rights and Special Education funding within our schools. I have actively voiced my concerns with numerous local and legislative officials, the Torrance school board and the Youth City Council about how they can improved services for students with special needs and adults. My motivation to continually fight for these beliefs comes from none other than the Friendship Foundation. For me, being able to truly impact these students' lives gives me no greater joy in this world. It means so much to me that the Friendship Foundation not only provides amazing programs but also has 30 other Friendship Clubs in schools within the Los Angeles area. This year, as the Friendship Club president, I plan to work collaboratively with our teachers to host various virtual activities with the guidance of the Friendship Foundation. I am thankful for the many ways that the Friendship Foundation has transformed me into the person I am today and am excited to continue serving students with special needs.

Our Clubs

Centinela Valley Union High School

Hawthorne High School

Lawndale High School

Leuzinger High School

Charter Schools

Century Community Charter School

El Segundo Unified School District

El Segundo Middle School

El Segundo High School

Hermosa Unified School District

Hermosa Valley Elementary School

Hermosa Valley Middle School

Hermosa View Elementary School

Lawndale Elementary School District

Jane Addams Middle School

Leander Independent School District 

Vista Ridge High School (TX)

Lennox School District

Felton Elementary School

Lennox Middle School

Manhattan Beach Unified School District

Grandview Elementary School

Manhattan Beach Middle School

Mira Costa High School

Pacific Elementary School

Pennekamp Elementary School

Robinson Elementary School

Palos Verdes Unified School District

Dapplegray Elementary School

Mira Catalina Elementary School

Miraleste Intermediate School

Palos Verdes High School

Palos Verdes Intermediate School

Palos Verdes Peninsula High School

Point Vicente Elementary School

Rancho Vista Elementary School

Ridgecrest Intermediate School

Silver Spur Elementary School

Soleado Elementary School

Private Schools

Chadwick High School

Redondo Beach Unified School District

Adams Middle School

Beryl Elementary School

Lincoln Elementary School

Parras Middle School

Redondo Union High School

Torrance Unified School District

Victor Elementary School

West Torrance High School

Wiseburn School District

Dana Middle School

Da Vinci High School

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a Friendship Club at my school?

The Friendship Foundation’s School Program Manager will work together with you to start a club at your school.  It would be helpful to speak with a teacher who will support your efforts for this new and exciting opportunity! He or she can arrange a meeting with your school principal to discuss your plans for the club; and our school program manager will be available to provide additional information and support at the meeting.  By being a member of the Friendship Club community, schools will receive year round support from the Friendship Foundation and opportunities to participate in our annual Friendship Community Carnival and the Evening of Recognition Volunteer ceremony.

Is Friendship Club offered at all school levels?

Yes, Friendship Club operates at elementary, middle and high school levels. Students have the opportunity to continue participating in Friendship Club as they transition to other schools within their school district.

Is volunteer training offered to club members?

Volunteer training for all Friendship Foundation programs is mandatory and is offered to all volunteers throughout the school year.  We provide workshops that will help students to interact effectively with their buddies and learn why inclusion and acceptance is important for their community.  Our teachers will offer support in the classroom and guide students through their club activities.  Please visit our volunteer page for more information on how you can get involved.

Are there opportunities for club members to volunteer with the Friendship Foundation?

Many of our volunteers that are members of their school’s Friendship Club have also participated in our community programs.  Building friendships in schools have inspired students to stay connected with their peers, improve leadership skills, and expand their social network.  For many of our high school club members, leadership opportunities are a great way to gain experience for college.  Our annual SKECHERS Pier-to-Pier Friendship Walk is an awe-inspiring event that brings together friends and family for a day filled with fun and entertainment.  Middle school and high school students are invited to apply for the SKECHERS Teen Advisory Board (T.A.B.) committee for a chance to promote their school and raise awareness for children with special needs and education.  Volunteer opportunities are available to children ages 8-17 and to young adults age 18+.  Please visit our volunteer page to get involved.  

Español »