What happens when undergraduate students train and mentor young adults with intellectual disabilities in making good nutritional choices while becoming more self-sufficient? The result is the Friends with Aggies Buddy program in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at N.C. A&T.

For more than a year, a total of 17 undergraduate students from a range of majors, including FCS, served as facilitators and mentors to 17 young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The program was funded by a USDA/NIFA Evans-Allen grant that ended in September.

An FCS faculty team created a specialized curriculum consisting of 12 lessons to improve self-sufficiency skills for adults with I/DD using FCS as the base. The lessons focused on nutrition, appearance, resource management and relationships.

The program used a train-the-trainer approach to prepare undergraduate Aggie Friends (mentors) to teach the lessons to their Buddies (mentees).  In between lessons, Aggie Friends engaged with their paired Buddies, participating in activities and regular communication related to the lessons. Throughout the process, the undergraduate Aggie Friends and their young adult Buddies gained and practiced the skills and information shared in the bi-weekly lessons.

Aggie Friends and their Buddies enjoyed learning and applying the information learned together. The pairs learned how to make quick dishes with minimal ingredients and how to choose healthier food items when eating out. In terms of appearance, they have been introduced to identifying quality basic clothing and dressing to complement their body type. The pairs have learned how to manage their money, time and energy and how to be a good friend to one another and others. 

The research team consisting of PI Devona Dixon, Ph.D.; Beth Newcomb, Ph.D.; Meeshay Willams-Wheeler, Ph.D.; Heather Colleran, Ph.D.; and Lauren San Diego, RD, partnered with The Arc of Greensboro to offer the program. For more information, contact Dixon at 336-285-3631 or dldixon@ncat.edu.