YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this eNews
YP!'s 2017 Priority Agenda is Here! 
Collage of YP! advocacy photobooth photos from events
YP! regularly collects the input of young people through regional youth forums, focus groups, surveys and other input gathering events to gain insight into the issues of importance to young people with disabilities and/or involvement in systems such as: foster care, addiction treatment, mental health, juvenile justice, and special education. 

The Priority  Agenda represents the major issues YP! supports and regularly works to address. Not all of the items on the agenda are legislative. A good majority of the work YP! does to bring youth voice to government is through committees and regular meetings with government employees. Last year, we also launched a photo booth campaign for young people to further amplify their voices and guide or priorities. 

YOUTH POWER!'s priorities include topics such as expanding the family and youth peer support workforce, rights and protections, mental health, addiction, developmental disabilities, foster care, education, employment, transportation, healthcare, and reforming the justice system. To view our priority agenda, visit
#UYP17 Call for Professors and Activity Leaders Extended:
Due March 3, 2017
UYP 2017 logo
Call for Professors and Activity Leaders has been extended!
Deadline: Friday, March 3, 2017

June 24-27, 2017, YOUTH POWER! will host the fourth annual University of YOUTH POWER!   (UYP).  UYP  is the premiere youth peer leadership conference modeled after a college experience. This conference provides Youth Peer Advocates and change agents the opportunity to build skills and expand their professional network.  Young people ages 18 to 30 can register for this for-youth-by-youth social justice conference with a major of Peer Advocacy or Systems Advocacy.
Individuals are not limited to one proposal. We encourage you to consider proposals that address the specific needs of each major or provide advanced and beginner courses to fit the diverse needs of students. Proposals can also include creative and engaging activities for all students to participate in.  Proposals are due by Friday, March 3, 2017.

Please complete the attached form and email it to
Or Fax it "Attn: Brianna Valesey" to  518-434-6478 by  March 3, 2017.

 We are seeking presentations on the following topics:
Systems Advocacy
Peer Advocacy
  • Systems advocacy skills
  • Strengthening anti-stigma and anti-discrimination efforts
  • Advocacy campaign development
  • Advocacy in the school system
  • Building and leading effective teams
  • Building a professional network
  • Strengthening anti-bullying initiatives
  • Campaign for multiple pathways to a diploma
  • Civil rights and social justice history
  • Conflict resolution: negotiation and compromises
  • Creative ways to engage young people in systems advocacy
  • Cultural competency: recognizing and addressing systemic problems
  • Disability history: universal design and making things accessible
  • How to handle difficult conversations
  • How to talk to government officials
  • Leadership skills
  • Legislative advocacy
  • Meeting facilitation
  • Navigating multiple systems
  • Organizing protests, vigils, and rallies
  • Public speaking
  • Regional, statewide, and national programs, connections, and collaborations
  • Self-care in public policy work
  • Self-advocacy in the workplace & committees
  • Strategic sharing
  • Developing trauma informed policies and practice
  • Understanding young people's rights
  • Strengthening youth addiction recovery campaigns
  • Youth peer advocacy skills
  • Abuse awareness and reporting
  • Addressing stigma & discrimination in the workforce
  • Addressing the needs of specific populations
  • Building and leading effective teams
  • Building a professional network
  • Bullying prevention and interventions
  • The history of the peer movement
  • Communicating with families as a Youth Peer Advocate
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creating safe & inclusive spaces
  • Cultural Competency
  • The effects of language, terminology, and labels
  • Effective communication
  • Group & meeting facilitation
  • Leadership skills
  • Multiple Pathways to a Diploma: supporting young people in their journey
  • Navigating multiple systems
  • Peer support group activities
  • Practicing self-care as a Youth Peer Advocate
  • Regional, statewide, and national programs, connections, and collaborations
  • Self-advocacy in the workforce
  • Strategic sharing
  • Trauma informed care and techniques
  • Understanding young people's rights
  • Youth addiction recovery
  • Disability history: universal design and making things accessible
Activity for All Students
  • Artivism
  • Universally accessible ice breakers, energizers, and activities.

What About Wellness? Forum on March 4, 2017. Register Today or  Confirm Previous Registration!
YOUTH POWER!'s Hudson River Regional Team has planned a FREE "Wellness" forum/event to take place on March 4th, 2017 from 1pm-4pm at the Howe branch of the Albany Library.
The "Wellness" forum explores what harms and helps us, coping skills, and ways to sustain support systems. What does it mean to be well? These things are often pushed to the side due to our busy lives. Let's open up a space where we can come together to relax, eat food, and start a conversation.
You're invited to build a self-care survival kit with us -- a box of comfort items that you can turn to when you're not feeling so great.
Please note that this is a youth/young adult-only forum (12-29). Non-attending adults may wait outside of the forum space or return at 4pm.
The Regional Youth Forum offers young people ages 12-29 who have been labeled (mental health, disability, foster care, juvenile system, addiction, etc.) the chance to voice opinions and concerns, meet like-minded people, and think of ways we can create change within the region. We want to hear from you!

If you previously registered to go to the December forum, you do NOT need to re-register for this one. However, you must contact Brennan Williams at to confirm your attendance.

For more information or to register, please visit
YP! Board Continues Growth: Announcements and Recruitment
YP! Now Recruiting. Join the Effort
Changes are underway with the YOUTH POWER! Board of Directors. New members are stepping into leadership positions, fresh perspectives joined the team, and some members are stepping up to the challenge of leading on in other areas of work. 

A vote was recently held to elect the board leadership team and bring on a new member. We are proud to make the following announcements:

Amanda Park from the Central Region will be stepping into the role of Board President and Action Working Group Leader. When asked about becoming the new YP! Board President, Amanda stated,  "I'm really excited and grateful for the opportunity to be YOUTH POWER!'s Board President. I look forward to leading the organization to have an amazing 2017!"   

Joseph Munisteri from the Long Island Region and founding board member has rejoined the team and will be stepping into the role of Vice President and Outreach Working Group Leader.

Marc Rosen from the Long Island Region will be continuing his work as Treasurer and stepping into the role of Special Events Working Group Leader. 

Kaylin Corbran from the Western Region was also voted onto the Board on February 11, 2017. Welcome to the team Kaylin!

Thank you to Caitlin Neumann for serving on the board and as President of over three years. We are greatly indebted for her leadership and passion. 
We would also like to thank Bianca Logan from the Western Region for her two years of service to the YP! Board and for her four years on the Special Events Working Group. Bianca will be joining the YP! employee team in early March as the ACHIEVE Youth Peer Services and Training Manager.

Also serving on the board is Tony Turner from the New York City Region and Curtis Grupe from the Hudson River Region.

We are actively recruiting reliable, diverse leaders for our Board. Please contact for more information and to express interest. Now is the time to speak up and speak out! We need YOUth to amplify our voices and spark systems change.
Lead the Way in Changing the Foster Care System with FACE
Domonica Jeffress and Azaria Wittekind on speaking at the podium alongside youth rally participants
Fostering Advocacy Change and Empowerment (FACE) is a foster youth-led and adult-supported project, working to change the face of foster care in New York. Comprised of some of this generation's most energetic and passionate youth advocates, FACE is an inviting, enthusiastic, familial, safe platform to be heard, to advocate, and stay empowered for every foster youth in New York State.

At the 2017 Families Together in NYS Legislative Awareness Day, members met with legislators to advocate for change. FACE representatives were also guest speakers at the event, featuring Domonica Jeffress, FACE Coordinator, and Azaria Wittekind, Western Regional Youth Partner. 

FACE is taking the state by storm and actively recruiting new members. If you would like to be a part of the movement and lead campaigns and advocacy efforts with peers who are seeking to change the face of the foster care system, visit  to download the membership form.
Want to Protect Your Rights? Join the Action Workgroup!
silhouette of person holding megaphone with ACTION! written across in red
In these uncertain times, many young people are fearing for their rights, services, and futures. You can help protect your rights by joining YP!'s Action Workgroup. The Action Workgroup is the team that carries out YP!'s policy priorities. We create campaigns based on YP!'s priority agenda. Our current campaigns include the Individual with Disabilities Education Act Enforcement Campaign and The Campaign for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma.
Action meets every other week over Goto-Meeting software. Members are not required to join every meeting.  To join or for more info, contact Melanie Hecker at or 518-432-0333 ex 14. 
AMPLIFY-NY Implementation Team is Starting the Year Strong: Pilot Forum to Come Later This Year
Silhouette of guy with megaphone and fist in air
One of YOUTH POWER!'s strategic goals is to increase empowerment, skill building, leadership, and advocacy opportunities for young people with disabilities and system-specific labels. As many of you are familiar with, University of YOUTH POWER! (UYP) is a project that YP! developed to help accomplish that goal along with others. As UYP continues strong and approaches its fourth year, YOUTH POWER! returned to the need to have similar opportunities available for young people under the age of 18.

In searching for this opportunity, YP! applied for and was awarded a Youth Advocacy and Leadership Network contract through the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council we entitled AMPLIFY-NY, announced last November to begin this year. Through this grant, we are developing and hosting regional Youth Leadership Forums (YLF) across the state for young people ages 14-24. These 5-day, 4-night forums will be led for and by self-advocates and provide young people the opportunity and training they need to grow and lead on. With this, we will become a member of the Association of Youth Leadership Forums (AYLF) and create a New York forum based on the California YLF model. The pilot of these forums will be held in the Capital District later this year.

Alongside the YLFs is an opportunity for caregivers to grow and develop skills as well. YP! is partnering with Families Together in NYS, INCLUDEnyc, and Parent to Parent of NYS to develop an accompanying training for caregivers and have been hosting successful planning meetings to get these projects underway.

"I am excited for the opportunity to engage youth and young adults across NYS in activities which will not only increase their self-advocacy and leadership skills, but also their self-confidence and self-determination.  By utilizing the National Model of Youth Leadership Forums as a strong base and adding a YP! flavor to it, we are going to be empowering our youth and young adults to take on leadership roles and projects in their communities to bring about change and amplify youth voice."   - Elijah Fagan-Solis, AMPLIFY-NY Project Coordinator

"Parent to Parent of NYS looks forward to our involvement in AMPLIFY-NY.  As parents, we are always looking for ways to ensure we are supporting our children's positive growth and development.  As our children take their place as young adults, the support we provide also needs to transition.  AMPLIFY-NY will teach us how to become partners with our young adult children as they find their authentic voice and learn to effectively advocate for themselves and the future they desire."   - Michele Juda, Executive Director or Parent to Parent of New York State.
Throughout the year, opportunities to get involved in this project will be announced. Some of these opportunities include input sessions at upcoming conferences such as the FTNYS Annual Conference and #UYP17, the development of a planning group and a sustainability task force that will represent all five regions, and participating  in the pilot trainings.

Stay tuned for more announcements and get ready to amplify your voices!

For questions regarding this project, please contact Elijah Fagan-Solis at  
Creativity IS the Movement
by Alex Frisina
Collage of alex frisina singing on stage, a young person participating in a video project, a sign created at a youth rally, and a photo from YP!'s photobooth project
When we open the history book and recall all the powerful movements that have taken place to insure better treatment for everybody, many names, actions and possibly speeches come to mind. We think of Martin Luther King Jr sharing his dream for America, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat or the 1978 protests to fight Inaccessible buses in Denver when nineteen members of the Atlantis Community blocked buses with their wheelchairs. These and many other iconic moments helped to shape the world we live in today.

These lessons really help to show us what people at the forefront of these Civil Rights Movements took on to create better outcomes for others. Not to take away from these revolutionaries but sometimes we focus so much on the leaders we forget these goals were achieved thru the work of many people over many years. Everyone can play a roll; these rolls can cater to the strengths of the individual. This is where our creativity comes in. Not everyone enjoys public speaking, many people don't want all the attention on them but still want to be heard. We can use all different avenues to voice our opinions. A great way that connects to many is thru using different art forms. In the history of our movement and many others you will find powerful photos, drawings, posters, songs, paintings, cartoons and books that convey strong messages and engage people to help shine light on the issues at hand or give direction to others in the movement.

What we want is to see the powerful creativity of our members! We need you to represent the Youth Peer Movement with your creativity and your voice. How can you do that? Read over the YOUTH POWER! Priority Agenda and find a topic you are passionate about and let your creativity flow. You can speak on current issues, share your story, shed light on issues important to you in whatever format you feel comfortable. Write a poem, draw a picture, sing a song, create a cartoon, take a photo; anything you would like to express your connecting to the youth movement. 

Once created, email the work or pictures of the work to Please feel free to contact Alex with any questions you may have well creating. We are eager to see the creativity of everyone and help to amplify your messages! It is our dedication, hard work, passion, hearts and creativity that aid the continued growth of the movement!
New ACA Toolkit by ASAN for Self-Advocates
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) recently released a plain language Affordable Care Act Toolkit for Self-Advocates, the first in a series of accessible policy and advocacy resources that ASAN will release this year. These resources will equip self-advocates to participate in important conversations about our lives and the services we rely on.
The health care system in America is a complicated topic, one we could be talking about for months or years. The Affordable Care Act Toolkit for Self-Advocates explains in plain language all the different pieces of the ACA, what the proposed changes are, what the impact of repealing it would be, and how you can get involved.
ASAN hopes that you'll use this toolkit to understand and participate in these important conversations over the next year. You are encouraged to share it widely so that as many self-advocates as possible have the tools we need to tell lawmakers: Nothing about us without us!
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month
JDAIM banner
by Melanie Hecker

Disability inclusion is something that needs to be present in all aspects of a person's life. When people talk about disability inclusion, housing, education, employment, and transportation are what usually comes to mind. However, it is also important for there to be disability inclusion in people's cultural and religious lives. Religious and cultural inclusion is the goal of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month and the Ruderman inclusion Initiative.

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month is a call to action for Jewish communities and organizations all over the world. Its mission is to champion the right for Jews with disabilities to be involved in all aspects of Jewish life and be involved in Jewish culture just like anyone else. Jewish communities are being urged to welcome Jews with disabilities and promote equality. There is much emphasis on everyone having gifts and everyone have something to contribute to the community.

Many synagogues (Jewish house of worship) are working towards becoming more disability-inclusive as part of the Ruderman Inclusion Initiative. For this initiative, participating synagogues are forming inclusion committees to address the needs of congregants with disabilities and ensure services and events are accessible. This can include anything from building accessibility to quiet spaces for people with noise sensitivity, to sign language interpretation or transcription for the deaf and hard of hearing. The Ruderman Family Foundation helps the participating congregations by providing consultation and, in some cases, grants.

As co-chair of Congregation Ohav Shalom's inclusion committee, I am proud of the work my committee has done to play our part in the initiative. We have developed a needs survey for the congregation, made building adjustments based on an accessibility audit, acquired large-print prayerbooks, and we are in the process of identifying a quiet room space for people with sensory issues.  The work we are doing is very important to ensure our synagogue is accessible to people with disabilities.

For more info on Jewish Disability Awareness and inclusion Month, visit

If you would be interested in having your synagogue take part in the initiative, visit 
Get Involved with National Campaigns!
Photo of megaphone with different social media symbols coming out
Social media is a great tool to bring awareness in our advocacy efforts. nationalcampaigns
Together, we can amplify our voices!

Check out the campaigns below for more information on how you can team up to Speak Up and Speak Out! 

Black History Month
Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
National Kidney Month
Women's History Month
Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Want to get more involved in YP!'s Advocacy efforts?
 You can submit advocacy tips, articles, and more on topics that affect YOU! Team up with monthly, weekly, and national day campaigns and email submissions to !

Did we miss a campaign or resource above? Let us know
Help Test a New Assessment Survey of Youth and Young Adult Voice at the Agency Level
Youth M.O.V.E. National logo
Work with an organization that wants to include youth voice in agency decision-making? 

You're invited to take part in a study that is testing a new assessment survey of youth and young adult voice at the agency level. 
  • You need to register at least two people from your organization.
  • Participants should have knowledge about their organization's efforts to promote youth and young adult participation in organizational advising and decision-making.
  • You'll be entered to win a $100 gift card as a thank you for your participation.
To register, contact Jennifer Blakesless at
Upcoming Event: Recovery Live - Defining Our Own Recovery
person on a laptop_ screen displaing SAMHSA website
Recovery Live: Defining Our Own Recovery

Thursday, February 23, 2017
2:00PM - 3:00PM

Defining Our Own Recovery: Strategic Sharing and Recovery Messaging for Young People is part of a new series of BRSS TACS Recovery LIVE! events.  
Recovery LIVE! participants engage directly with moderators and each other through live chatting, polls, and other interactive features.  Listen in to the conversation... and be a part of it!
Defining Our Own Recovery will explore the experiences of young people in recovery who share their personal stories in order to create change.  Recovery movement leaders will share their perspectives on how individuals can share stories in ways that maximize impact and minimize personal and professional risk.  This session will also explore how organizations working with young people can support them in sharing their own recovery stories.
Lacy Kendrick Burk, Partner, Change Matrix
Justin Luke Riley, President and CEO, Young People in Recovery
Juan Velez Court, Co-founder, NuestraMente
Moderated by  Valerie Gold, Senior Associate, Center for Social Innovation

To register, click here
National Youth Advisory Council Seeking New Members
Doors to Wellbeing Logo


Young Adult (16-30) Council Member Positions: 
  • Youth Representative
  • Cultural Diversity Representative
  • Rural Diversity Representative
  • Region 3 Representative (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,Virginia, West Virginia)
  • Region 7 Representative (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)

Adult Member Positions:
  • Veteran (Who has served in Afghanistan/Iraq) Representative
  • Peer Specialist Representative
Last day to apply is March 15th, 2017

The Doors to Wellbeing National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) provide feedback and recommendations and to take a leadership role in creating meaningful change through their projects and activities. The council includes 10 members. Eight youth (16-30) and two adult mentor members. Each member represents a focus of their grant. Each member must serve a one year term and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. Members must agree to attend 80% of the meetings. 
Click here to apply.

For more information, please contact Amey Dettmer, Special Projects Coordinator,
New Gay Straight Alliance Groups for Young People in Niagara County
pride flag painted across image
Gay Straight Alliance
Sponsored by the Community Network of Care (CNOC) for Children and Families in Niagara County and the Gay & Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS) of WNY.

Young people between the ages of 14 and 19 who identify as part of the LGBT community, are unsure, or are an ally are welcome to join.

Hosted by Family and Children's Service, 1522 Main Street/Niagara Falls. Meetings take place every 1st Wednesday (except January and July) from 6-8pm.

If you have any questions or would like to join, please contact Kelley Swann at 716-285-6984 extension 104.
Save the Date! 23rd Annual AWESOME! Symposium
23rd Annual AWESOME! Symposium
Wednesday May 10th, 2017
From 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
 "Promoting the positive by planting the seeds for Success!"

Melville Marriott
1350 Old Walt Whitman Road
Melville, New York 11747

Families of children with SED are FREE!!
Professionals $45.00
Please note that brochures will be available at the end of  February, *2017*

This Year's Symposium will cover topics in various systems, including but not limit to: The Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Mental Health Association, YOUTH POWER!, Families Together NYS, Inc, Regional Technical Assistance Team (RTAT), Police & Hospital Topics, NYS Office of Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol, WAVE youths, New York State Education Department, Probation Department, Status on Behavioral Health Homes and Medicaid Redesign. 

Cheryl Williams 631 761-3181 or 
The views and opinions expressed in third party messages and external links included in this eNews are those of the organization or individual mentioned. They do not necessarily reflect the official positions of YOUTH POWER!.
YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve.  Nothing About Us Without Us!

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