As co-director of the UCLA Best Buddies chapter, Singh is responsible for pairing college volunteers with developmentally disabled high school students in order to foster meaningful one-to-one friendships. Singh says that ever since he obtained a leadership position in the program, he has worked to organize activities that will not just entertain the buddies, but will also enrich their lives.
One of his ideas — the "Buddylimpics" athletic competition between buddies and volunteers from local Best Buddies chapters — almost didn't make it past the starting line.
"Initially, the first Buddylimpics looked to be the last," he says. "Many of our buddies refused to join games and instead were sticking to their college buddies. However, by the end of the day, there wasn't a soul standing on the sidelines."
Singh, a senior majoring in microbiology and molecular genetics and economics, has a special relationship with his buddy, Anthony. He says as he learned more about Anthony, his ideas of developmentally disabled children were shattered as his new friend told him about his musical talents, athleticism and numerous Boy Scout merit badges. After meeting Anthony's parents, Singh realized his new friend was exceptional because his parents treated him like any other teenager.
Last May, Singh received the 2000 Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award for his outstanding contributions and commitment to public service. In addition to having his name engraved on a bronze plaque on campus, Singh also received a cash prize of $500 to be used for the humanitarian activity or program of his choice.
Singh's goal is to teach the buddies about experiences that societal preconceptions have taken away from them in the hope that they will discover and pursue their own interests. "Through these efforts, we hope our buddies will begin to learn and grow independently, demonstrating their potential to their family, friends and community," he says.