KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #57 ~ September 2021
"Kansas Beats the Virus" Special Edition
Can Kansas really beat the COVID virus? We think so... but it takes ALL of us to make this happen! One of the best ways to get past this virus is for as many people as possible to get the COVID vaccine. Thanks to help from the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK), KYEA has teamed up with the Kansas Leadership Center to help promote the "Kansas Beats the Virus" project. For this reason, we are dedicating this special edition newsletter to educating YOU about the COVID vaccine and how you can help defeat this virus. Together, we can do this! How will you help "beat the virus?"
A sign that says Not Today hashtag COVID 19 against an orange background
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy logo


As part of the "Kansas Beats the Virus" project, KYEA has been doing various things to educate our youth and young adults about the COVID vaccine, as well as provide incentives for those who have gotten vaccinated. Read on for all of the details...
A blue streamer coming up from the ground with the word winner on it
Are you vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated this month?
Let Us Know and Get a Gift Card!

KYEA wants to encourage people throughout our state to protect themselves and others from the virus! One of those ways is by getting vaccinated. Because we are working with the "Kansas Beats the Virus" project, we have funds to spend, and we want to reward you all!

We will send a $20 Amazon gift card to anyone who got, or gets, their COVID vaccine in August or September and sends us a picture of themselves and their vaccine card. We have 70 Amazon gift cards to give out!

We also want to reward those who have already gotten their vaccine. If you got your COVID vaccine before August, we will put your name in a bowl and will randomly select two winners. Those two individuals will get a $50 Amazon gift card!

To get your gift card, or be entered into our drawing, let us know of your vaccine status by emailing us at or calling 785-215-6655.
I Got Shot... My Vaccine Story
KYEA Staff Speak Out on the Importance of Vaccines
Julia Connellis, Executive Director
Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
A male is wearing a mask while a nurse is putting a bandaid on his arm after getting a shot
KYEA to Host Informational Zoom Meeting on COVID and Vaccines

Would you like to know more about COVID, the vaccines, and be able to ask questions of an expert? KYEA is going to provide the opportunity to do just that! KYEA will be hosting an informational Zoom call for anyone to attend to learn more about the COVID vaccines. This call will be an opportunity to hear all the facts about COVID, vaccines, and other topics related to this. We will bring in experts who can answer any question that you may have. No question will be off limits… every question will be answered to the best of the expert’s ability. Also, this call will be in plain, simple language that EVERYONE can understand. Consider attending! This will be your opportunity to have all of your questions answered so that you can fully understand your options.

We are still working out details of the date and time of this Zoom call. Those details will be announced soon on our website and Facebook page. See below for those links:

Please consider attending! This is a very important topic, and we want everyone to have a good understanding of it!
TikTok logo
KYEA Promoting TikTok Vaccine Video Challenge Hosted by KHLAAC

KYEA is working to encourage young people to get vaccinated. Many other organizations are doing the same! Check out this cool opportunity hosted by the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission.

The Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission (KHLAAC) is working to encourage youth to get vaccinated and they are using TikTok to do it! They have designed the TikTok video challenge that asks youth to create a TikTok video encouraging vaccinations. They hope to highlight those getting the vaccine and also allow those who haven't taken steps to get vaccinated to be encouraged and know that it is safe. They have three simple rules:

1. Be a Kansas Resident.
2. Eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
3. Be creative!

KHLAAC wants videos from a variety of young people, including those with disabilities.

Entrants must send KHLAAC the video and whoever gets the most likes and shares each month wins a gift card. Some of the videos will be posted on KHLAAC social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Submit your video to Videos can also be submitted through Facebook messenger on the KHLAAC Facebook Page.

To learn more, contact Arely Navarrete Velazquez at
Amelia smiling with her parents and brother outdoors

Spotlight On: Amelia Van Dalsem

Local Youth Shares Experience with Getting the COVID Vaccine

by Amelia Van Dalsem, Topeka

My name is Amelia Van Dalsem, and I am in my junior year of high school. My disabilities that have the most impact on me are Ehlers Danlos, Juvenile arthritis, and my leaking heart valve.

I decided to get the vaccine to protect myself and my family. Three out of four of my family are high risk, which includes me because of my heart. I didn't want any of my family to get hospitalized, and, also, I didn’t want to unknowingly spread COVID if I was asymptomatic.

For me, it was very easy to get the vaccine. I just went into Hyvee, filled out paperwork, and got the shot. I came back two weeks later to get the second dose of the vaccine.

I encourage people to get the vaccine to help stop the spread of COVID and to also try and reach herd immunity. If you are nervous about getting the vaccine, I would say to talk to your doctors about the vaccine and encourage you to find research papers that are peer reviewed by other doctors.

To learn more about Amelia's story, watch the video in Real Stories, Real People below.
A female wearing a red mask and backpack standing outside on a college campus
Top 10 Reasons to Get Vaccinated

by Carrie Greenwood, KYEA Program Coordinator

There are so many reasons to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Below are just a few major perks of taking that step and getting the vaccine.

1. To protect yourself from getting really sick or even just from getting the virus altogether.

2. To protect your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the random stranger next to you who may or may not have a strong immune system.

3. To help our state, nation, and world move one step further away from the virus.

4. To protect any children that you may be around who cannot get the vaccine yet.

5. To help the doctors and nurses in local hospitals from being overwhelmed and exhausted.

6. So that you can safely go out to your favorite restaurant, store, park, sports game, etc.

7. So that you can FINALLY go out on that date that you've been looking forward to!

8. So that concerts can safely return. I don't know about you, but I'm SO ready for a live concert!

9. So that KYEA can go back to having in person programs, and we can come and see you!

10. Simply put... to do your little, and BIG, part in making our world a safer, healthier place.
You can get a $20 gift card just by getting vaccinated! KYEA is giving away gift cards to anyone who got, or gets, the COVID vaccine in August or September. If you've already been vaccinated before August, then you could be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card! Just contact us and let us know: or 785-215-6655.
A man wearing a hair net and large mask and glove is putting his hand out and the words Stop COVID 19 are written on the glove
Real Stories, Real People
KYEA Alumni and Friends Share Their Vaccine Experiences

Videos compiled by Whit Downing, Faces Alumna '17

Not sure yet if you want to get the COVID vaccine? Want to hear from people who have been vaccinated? Watch the videos below for personal stories of people of all ages who got the vaccine and why they think that others should get it too!
"My name is Christian, and I'm helping Kansas Beat the Virus!"
"My name is Anthony, and I'm helping Kansas Beat the Virus!"
"My name is Amelia, and I'm helping Kansas Beat the Virus!"
"My name is Dallas, and I'm helping Kansas Beat the Virus!"
"My name is Jen, and I'm helping Kansas Beat the Virus!"
Here Are the Facts... The important things that you need to know about COVID-19 and getting vaccinated!
Just the Facts...

There are 39,668,869 people in the U.S. who have gotten COVID-19 as of 9/3/21.

There are 377,123 people in Kansas who have gotten COVID-19 as of 9/3/21.

Currently, 643,405 people in the U.S. have died from COVID; 5,630 of these were people in Kansas.

373,516,809 people in the U.S. are vaccinated as of 9/3/21.

46.1% of Kansans have been fully vaccinated as of 9/3/21.

Disability alone does not put you at higher risk for getting COVID-19. You may be at higher risk because of where you live, because you need to have close contact with care providers, or because you have difficulty wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from other people, or washing your hands.

Many people with disabilities have diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or obesity. These conditions may put you at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.

*Information from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention (CDC) and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Simply Put...
COVID-19 Vaccines Are Important

Some people with COVID-19 feel fine.
Some people with COVID-19 feel bad.
Some people with COVID-19 get very sick.

COVID-19 vaccines help keep you from getting COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines help keep you from getting very sick from COVID-19.

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you had COVID-19.
You can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant.
You can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you have allergies.
You can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you have health problems.
Ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are free for you.
People can get a COVID-19 vaccine in many places.
Soon COVID-19 vaccines will be in more places.
Ask your doctor where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Ask the health department where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

*from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention (CDC).
Myths About the COVID Vaccine
What's true and what's not true?

by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

Ever since the COVID-19 vaccines became available, there has been a lot of incorrect information going around. We want you all to have a good understanding of what is true and what is not true. So, let’s clear it all up right now with correct information from two trustworthy sources:

1. Electronic chips are not included in these vaccines. But, remember, they are in your phone, laptop, and car.

2. Infertility, or the inability to create a baby, for men or women is not a side-effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.

3. The COVID-19 vaccine causes no harm to a baby or to the development of the placenta during a pregnancy. Don’t worry future moms and dads; it’s all good.

4. Does the COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA? – No. Our DNA is in the center of each of our cells. The vaccine delivers materials to the outer part of the cell. Your beautiful DNA is safe!

5. Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine? – No. There is no live virus in the vaccine, so this is impossible.

6. Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me side-effects? – Possibly, but they are generally mild and do not last long. You’ve got this!

7. No rush job here! The development of the COVID-19 vaccine took no short-cuts. Studies show that researchers took the appropriate amount of time to create the vaccines.

Citation resources: Banner Health/Sanford Health, CDC
from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention
from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
from Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center
from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention
from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention
from Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention
Have You Heard?
Opportunities in Kansas
The dates for the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas Conference have been set and the Conference will be online this year! It will be held on Saturday, October 16 from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. The theme for this year is "Disability Rights Are Human Rights." Various sessions will be held, including some on COVID-19. Session topics include:

  • Mike Coffey, Key Note, Screenwriter/Producer of the movie “Triumph”
  • Anthony Frischenmeyer, PILR, Art Instructor
  • Whyte Lyte, Energizing Rapper, #ConstantlyPositive Project
  • Letiah Fraser, Poor People’s Campaign
  • Parson’s Dream Team, COVID-19 Projects Presentation
  • Self-Advocate’s Panel, Surviving COVID and Beyond

This Conference is completely free, but you can order a Conference t-shirt when registering. For more information, contact Jaclyn Anderson at 785-749-5588 or Register to attend

Opportunities on a National Level

The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in June the launch of a first-of-its-kind national hotline to connect people with disabilities to information and services to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) is available to help people with disabilities find vaccination locations in their communities, assist callers with making vaccination appointments, and connect callers to local services – such as accessible transportation – to overcome barriers to vaccination. The hotline also can provide information and resources to answer questions and address concerns about the vaccines and can connect callers to information and services that promote independent living and address fundamental needs, such as food, housing, and transportation.

Call 888-677-1199 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern) or email For more information, visit
Thank you for reading our Special Edition newsletter!
Look for our next regular issue in November!