A Lifelong Friendship

UPrep Students connect with kids with special needs in their community.


Photo: Caroline Pipes

8th grader Carter Headstrom walks and talks with his Friendship Circle buddy, Max. Carter has been a reliable volunteer as he hangs out and talks on the phone with his buddy frequently.

“At Friendship Circle, difference is actually the driving force that allows so many people to have these amazing experiences. I think for me this takeaway has presented itself in how I look at life,” sophomore Max Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein has been involved with the Friendship Circle, an organization that links teen volunteers with children and teens with special needs.
“I’ve worked with the Friendship Circle for four years now. It started out when I was in seventh grade because I needed to do service for a bar mitzvah project, but as time went on, I really fell in love with the organization and discovered a really amazing group of people,” Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein is now a part of the organization’s teen leadership board.
“I have gotten to pitch new ideas directly to the people in charge, and it’s been really rewarding to see those changes come into reality,” Rubenstein said. “I plan to continue on the board for junior and senior year and further change and uplift the organization.”
Program coordinator Caroline Pipes directly works with volunteers and their buddies to help cultivate strong and lasting bonds. Her goals are to build the groundwork for friendships that will last a lifetime and to educate volunteers on what is truly important.
“We empower children and teens with special needs, helping them develop the skills they need to live as productive and independent adult life as possible. We empower our teen volunteers, helping them develop the confidence, self-esteem and skills they need to become the leaders of tomorrow,” Pipes said.
Junior Ethan Bensussen has learned a lot from his six years of volunteering with the Friendship Circle.
“Friendship Circle has taught me even though some people may suffer from different mental or physical disabilities, it is important to remember that they are people too, they have just as many feelings as the rest of us and they just need a little help to flourish in the world,” Bensussen said.
Friendship Circle has given volunteers and buddies alike a sense of community and lasting friendship.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience is that we shouldn’t let our differences define us,” Rubenstein said.
Despite COVID-19, the organization and volunteers have adapted during this pandemic.
“Friendship Circle has been a saving grace for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to sustain virtual programming and limited in-person programming to serve the most vulnerable children among us,” Pipes said.