Best Buddies International Announces Partnership with Sanford Harmony at National University to Incorporate Social Emotional Learning Program

Partnership expands access to innovative social emotional learning program to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities

San Diego, Calif. — Best Buddies International, a global nonprofit dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), is collaborating with the private, nonprofit National University to integrate Sanford Harmony, an innovative social emotional learning program that helps reinforce positive peer interactions among children through easy-to-use activity and lesson plans.

Through the leadership of National University, Sanford Harmony is being introduced to students in public and private schools and youth programs around the country. Designed to improve relationships among children, and into adulthood, Sanford Harmony aligns strongly with the goals and principles of the Best Buddies program, which helps to eradicate the social, physical and economic isolation of millions of individuals with IDD.

“Best Buddies is honored to partner with National University to offer Sanford Harmony to our student participants and further progress our mission of friendship and social inclusion in a powerful way,” said Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies International’s Founder and Chairman. “This is an incredible addition to the Best Buddies curriculum and I truly do believe that it will change the way our participants learn about the core values of Best Buddies, including diversity, empathy, inclusion and communication.”

The partnership with the San Diego-based National University and its Sanford Harmony program helps reinforce the mission of Best Buddies, which helps individuals with disabilities form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communications skills and feel valued by society. Sanford Harmony is in the process of being adopted by 500 Best Buddies elementary and middle school programs around the country —  a number that represents about 10,000 students in 44 cities —  as part of Best Buddies’ efforts to support and foster friendships and collaborations between volunteers and Best Buddies partners.

“We are so very pleased to be collaborating with Best Buddies to bring Sanford Harmony to their programs since it addresses such a critical need in our society,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the National University System. “Sanford Harmony is helping children of all backgrounds learn to respect each other and collaborate, creating a foundation that will last a lifetime.”

To date, Sanford Harmony is in various stages of adoption in more than 16,970 classrooms around the country, which represents over 366,000 students in more than 20 states. Designed to integrate seamlessly into classroom and learning environments, Sanford Harmony is designed to fulfill a need for developing strong social and emotional skills in children as a way to improve relationships between adults. The PreK-6 research-based program, which includes classroom lesson plans, storybooks and activity cards available in a toolkit-style box, has been found to encourage positive attitudes toward school, increase academic performance and empathy as well as reduce stereotyping and aggression.

National University, which has the 10th largest school of education in the country and a substantial special education program, is leading the national expansion of Sanford Harmony through collaborations with other universities, a group called the Sanford Education Collaborative that is introducing the program to schools, after-school programs and in conjunction with other youth-focused organizations within their own regions. The program expansion phase involves public and private schools in major school districts spanning from Los Angeles to New York City, as well as organizations such as local Boys and Girls Clubs, Head Start programs and a recent partnership with LA’s BEST after-school enrichment programs.

About Best Buddies International
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,900 middle school, high school and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ eight formal programs — Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies® , Jobs, Ambassadors and Promoters — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 900,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit,, or

About National University and its Sanford Education Center

National University, founded in 1971, is among the largest private, nonprofit universities in California with more than 185,000 alumni. The University, an affiliate of the National University System, offers programs through two colleges and four schools and it ranks as having among the top ten largest schools of education in the country. The University is also the home of the Sanford Education Center, established in 2014 to provide innovative programs in the nonprofit and Pre-K-12 sector. The Center, in coordination with universities around the country, is leading the national expansion of three initiatives: Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. Learn more about the Center’s initiatives here:

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