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These Friendships Aren’t for College Resumes

Monica Dougherty doesn’t volunteer to be friends with Ethan Ducayet. She doesn’t hang out with him so she can write about how good of a person she is in a college application essay. Ducayet is her friend. He’s one of her best friends. He just happens to have autism.


“Ethan’s taught me so much about myself,” Dougherty, 18, told The Mighty. “He’s taught me about life, about the person I want to be. I’ve learned things from him I wouldn’t have learned from anyone else. Our friendship is invaluable.”

The high school senior from Evanston, Ill., met Ducayet two years ago through an international nonprofit program at her school called “Best Buddies,” where students with and without disabilities are paired up.

Dougherty’s been a part of the program for four years. So, when she had to create a senior project this year, she knew what she wanted to focus on: friendship.

The 18-year-old began photographing and interviewing pairs in the Best Buddies program — the result is a project she calls, “The Power of Friendship.”

“These friendships are true and real, and they’re beneficial to both parties,” Dougherty says. “The friendships are normal and equal. That’s what I want people to take away from my project.”

See all the photos from The Power of Friendship on Facebook. Here are just a few:

“My favorite trait about Graham is his honesty.” – Ben

Ben and Graham

“I feel really confident around her.” – Lauren

Lauren and Maddie

“Tim helps me spell words on my ACD so I can talk to people. He laughs at mistakes. I laugh too and try again.” – Marcelo

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Marcelo and Tim

“Grayson always brings out the best in the people around him.” – Nathan

Grayson and Nathan