Deer Lakes High School teacher named Best Buddies Pittsburgh Advisor of the Year |
Valley News Dispatch

Deer Lakes High School teacher named Best Buddies Pittsburgh Advisor of the Year

Emily Balser
Courtesy of Deer Lakes School District
Autumn Weleski was selected as Best Buddies Advisor of the Year for the Pittsburgh region for the 2017-18 school year.

Deer Lakes High School teacher Autumn Weleski is always there for her students no matter what time of day or what else may be going on in her life.

That dedication has earned her the title of Best Buddies Pittsburgh Advisor of the Year for the 2017-18 school year.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It pairs disabled students with their able-bodied classmates for activities in and out of school.

Weleski, a life skills teacher who works with students with disabilities, was selected from among four other nominated advisors from the Pittsburgh area.

“I was extremely surprised,” Weleski said. “I was just really shocked.”

Weleski was nominated as advisor of the year by senior Karns Hazlett, 18, who was part of the Best Buddies program all four years of high school, serving as president for the last year.

During that time, she worked closely with Weleski to make sure the program was successful.

“She has always been just 100 percent all in,” Hazlett said. “Anything and everything we needed she was always there to help us and support us.”

Weleski spent much of the second half of the school year on maternity leave, but that didn’t stop her from staying involved.

“It was kind of like she was still there,” Hazlett said. “She was still there to answer my questions.”

Weleski has been advisor of the Best Buddies program for 11 years. She said it’s important to the school because it ensures everyone is included. Weleski said her disabled students are paired with another student and get to take part in activities that they otherwise might not be included in.

“We make sure that everybody feels like they’re important and they have a friend while they’re in high school,” she said.

Some of the initiatives Best Buddies worked on this year include the Friendship Ball, which was a dance for students involved in the program from throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

The group also conducted a schoolwide “spread the word to end the word” campaign, which is a national initiative to raise awareness for how hurtful it is to people with intellectual disabilities and their families when people use the “R” word that went from a clinical description to a commonly-used insult; and to persuade them to eliminate it from their vocabulary.

Colleen Hicks, program manager of the Best Buddies Pittsburgh office, said Weleski’s efforts made her stand out in this year’s nominations.

“She is at all of their chapter activities that they do after school,” Hicks said. “Every single time being there and supporting, helping with the plans, (and) knowing all the students by name.”

Hicks said there are 21 schools in the Pittsburgh area that have Best Buddies programs, but they’d like to double that by next summer.

Weleski said she sees the advisor of the year award as recognition of the work all of the students put into the program.

“I think our chapter does amazing things,” she said. “It’s a reflection of our students and all their hard work.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter @emilybalser.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.