KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #60
October 2022
Happy Fall! We made it through the summer and have lots of updates for you all! How was your summer? Was it relaxing? Our KYEA summer was not, but guess what? It is totally okay because our summer was full of amazing moments and empowerment of youth in our state!

In the midst of that, though, we found inspiration for this month's newsletter topic... self-care. When things get busy, we all have to make self-care a priority. Read on to learn all about this!

As always, thanks for reading and for supporting KYEA!
A small pumpkin and cup of coffee sit on a wood table
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy logo


Whew! This summer was a whirlwind! We have so many things to tell you all. We took somewhat of a breather before jumping right into recruitment, workshops, etc, etc. Read on for the full scoop of this summer's Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, what's next for our Empower Me! workshops, and more news!

KSYLF 2022 Live and In Action: 18 Delegates Gather for Life Changing Week of Leadership and Empowerment

The theme for our 2022 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum was “Leadership: LIVE! and In Action.” And this is exactly what we were… LIVE and in person for the first time in two years! The 21st annual KSYLF was one for the books with some challenges, but so many triumphs, successes, and growth in our delegates.

Eighteen youth leaders from across the state gathered at Washburn University in Topeka from July 11-16. The delegates came from a wide variety of different cities, with the furthest delegate traveling from Garden City. With the theme, delegates and volunteers celebrated being live and back in person since the start of the COVID pandemic. The group also learned that leadership is now; that the delegates are not the leaders of tomorrow, but rather, the leaders of TODAY! Delegates learned what it means to really put leadership in action in their own lives.

This year, we had 17 staff members, including 8 alumni who returned to serve in a mentor role. As always, the week was full of memories, new friendships, lessons learned, some tears (mostly happy!), empowering moments, disability pride, and so much laughter. The week included the usual large and small group sessions, Day at the Capital, Mentor Luncheon, wheelchair basketball, Real Life Affair, and dance. The Mentor Luncheon keynote speaker, this year, was Paralympian and World Champion, Nick Taylor, from Wichita. Nick shared a message of pushing through challenges to accomplish your goals and not letting your disability stop you.

Delegates heard this message over and over again throughout the KSYLF week! We are excited to see what comes next for our new alumni. Welcome to the KSYLF family 2022 alumni!
We were excited to bring back our annual awards that were given out at our KSYLF Mentor Luncheon! This year, KYEA honored three fabulous people who are already a part of the KSYLF family.
The Justin Cosco Award was presented to Ryan Bennett, 2018 KSYLF Alumni, who has gone on to achieve many things and fulfill his goals since being a delegate. Ryan attends Pittsburg State University; is the President of the PSU Autism Support Group; and is the Business Manager of Alpha Omega Psi. He also works at Nothing Bundt Cakes on breaks and in the summer.
The Spirit of Hope Award, in memory of John Peterson, was given to our very own, Rosie Cooper. Rosie has volunteered at every KSYLF that has ever been held. Rosie is our Staff Facilitator at KSYLF and ensures that our volunteers are being supported throughout the week. She is a true supporter of KYEA and currently helps coordinate the Faces of Change program.
The Mentoring Matters Award was given to Elizabeth (EB) Boresow. EB is constantly mentoring in her everyday life through her jobs and volunteer experiences. She has volunteered at KSYLF and has also served as a coach. She is a music therapist and direct support professional, mentored her peers while serving in leadership roles within AbleHawks & Allies at KU, and has been involved with various other organizations.
Thank you in big cursive yellow letters with a burst around it
Thank You Sponsors!
The KSYLF would not be possible each year without our sponsors! Thank you to our many 2022 KSYLF sponsors who helped us be live and in action! We are grateful to this entire group of businesses and organizations who believe in empowering youth leaders with disabilities in our state. Your investment changed the lives of 18 young people in Kansas. Thank you!!

Visit our 2022 Sponsor page for a full list of this year’s KSYLF sponsors.
Empower Me! Workshops to Begin a New Year... but first, a Recap of May

We are about to start a new year of Empower Me! Workshops, which is our collaboration with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). BUT, before we do that, we never got a chance to share about our last workshop before school ended!

We had one last workshop in May before our very busy summer started! This virtual workshop was held on May 3 and 4. It was attended by a small group of 5 youth. But, this was a fun, positive, curious group! We really enjoyed spending two half-days with these great youth. Thanks to those who attended!
The youth participants at the May Empower Me! Workshop take a screen shot photo on Zoom.
And, with that, we begin a new year of Empower Me! Workshops! The goal is to accomplish 10 employment workshops across the state before the end of May. And guess what? We will be back in person for the majority of the workshops! So, KYEA may be coming to your city soon! We have a full schedule planned, including many workshops in different cities and 3 virtual workshops for specific groups. First up- we will be heading to Kansas City on October 19 and Wichita on October 26. If you are in these cities, are a Pre-ETS consumer, and would like to attend an Empower Me! Workshop, just ask your specialist, and they can get you signed up!

We are excited to be back on the road, and hope to see many of you at our workshops in the coming year!
Female delegates taking a picture with Senator Brenda Dietrich
KSYLF logo with dove
Searching for Youth Applicants for 2023 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum!

It's that time again! KYEA is currently searching for potential youth leaders to attend our 22nd Annual Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF). Are you a youth with a disability who has an interest in leadership, who wants to become a better advocate, or who would like to meet other youth leaders with disabilities? Then consider applying to the KSYLF! The 2023 KSYLF will be held July 17-22 at Washburn University in Topeka.

All students who are interested in attending the KSYLF must meet the following criteria:
  • reside in Kansas
  • have a disability as defined with the Americans With Disabilities Act
  • be in the 11th or 12th grade as of December 31, 2022 (or be in an 18-21 transition program)
  • have demonstrated leadership potential in school and/or the community

Interested students must fill out an application that will be reviewed through a competitive selection process. The application deadline for the 2023 forum is December 15, 2022.

Don’t miss out on this amazing week of empowerment, leadership growth, new experiences, and making new friends!

self-care :

Taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.

another way of putting it...

Doing things for ourselves that are going to help us have our needs met.

in simple terms...

Caring for yourself!

It's so important for us to take care of ourselves and our health. This can have a large affect on all parts of our lives. Read on to learn about self-care and how YOU can make it a priority!
A sign that is painted and says You Matter
Close up of Michaela with red lipstick and redish hair and intense eye makeup

Spotlight On: Making Self-Care a Part of Everyday Life

Michaela VanDuesen

by Elizabeth Wright, KSYLF '18 and Faces '19 Alumna

Michaela VanDuesen is 22 years old. She work’s at Jimmy John’s, but she wants to go to school for music therapy.

Michaela got into self-care a year ago when she experienced a physical and emotional burnout. Self-care helped Michaela recover.

When asked about her self-care routine, Michaela said that, after she’s done for the day, she likes to do things like listen to, or write, music, paint, draw, watch videos, or go on social media. She also uses the Calm app or burns incense or wax melts and would like to implement a skincare or makeup routine in the future.

I asked Michaela how others should implement self-care into their lives. She feels that we should examine our lives and use our favorite activities as a basis for our self–care routine. She also feels that a person can, and should, schedule time for themselves, but don’t forget to be spontaneous and take time by themselves. She believes that the earlier self-care is implemented into a person’s routine, the better. It can help with their mental and physical well-being.

Michaela would like to see companies be broader and less targeted with their marketing of self-care items. This would help consumers to more easily decide if a product is right for them rather than get the impression that something is only for those with anxiety or another niche community. This way, everyone could benefit from the self-care products.

She would like people to know that self-care is important to everyone’s mental and physical health, and it’s important to remember that and not let yourself get overwhelmed.
Celeste smiling and taking a selfie with a purple background behind her
The Key to Staying on Track
How Self-Care Helps Me Live Life to the Fullest
by Celeste Houston, Faces Alumna '16

Self-Care is important for everyone. It’s even more important for people like me that have disabilities and chronic illnesses. While I have many disabilities/chronic illnesses, the three that make self-care the most important for me are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and General Anxiety Disorder GAD.

PCOS alone takes a huge toll on my physical, emotional, and mental health. My self-care surrounding PCOS involves making sure I take vitamins every day that include iron due to being anemic. I take Prenatal vitamins alongside my mental health meds because they offer me the best care for my body and mind. PCOS puts me at risk for becoming diabetic, so it’s important that I eat right. Eating is a challenge for me because I have struggled with bulimia and anorexia throughout much of my life. This is the hardest part of self-care for me. Eating regularly is more important than constantly eating healthy. The reason being that it helps keep my sugars from dropping and rising at unhealthy rates.

Exercise is probably the biggest part of my daily self-care. Exercise helps me on many levels. It helps me regulate my physical well-being, and it helps me even more on a mental level. When I exercise, I feel empowered, strong, confident, independent, and capable. Over time, exercise helps me feel that I’m growing in my abilities, that I can reach goals, it gives me a sense of community, and my self-worth increases.

Resting is just as important as exercise for me. It helps my mind rest from the noise of my thoughts, my body heal, and gives me energy for the next task, interaction, or day.

Overall, self-care is the most important part of my routine because, without it, I would not be able to function or live life to the fullest.
Sign that says Self-care isn't selfish
Fall scene of orange and yellow with beautiful leaves falling off of a tree
10 Ways to Improve Self-Care
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces Alumni '16 and KYEA Board President

With Fall weather on the way, now is a great time to think about the ways we can improve self-care. The cooler season gives us plenty of time to spend outdoors, catch up with loved ones, and gives us an opportunity to relax. Below is a list of 10 ways you can improve your self-care as 2022 winds down:

  • Create a sleep schedule
  • Exercise
  • Go outside
  • Get together with family and friends
  • Drink water
  • Get a massage
  • Start a new hobby
  • Clean out a messy room
  • Read a book
  • Schedule time for you
And Some Apps to Help You...

Smartphones and tablets offer many applications related to self-care that you can use to try new things or help keep you on track with your goals. Below are a few apps that you can try for yourself.
Water reminder app logo with droplet and clock next to it
Water Reminder – Daily Tracker (iPhone / Andriod)
As mentioned above, having enough water is critical for our health. This app will help you keep track of your hydration and send you reminders to drink water throughout the day. You can keep track of your progress over time and check off your goals.
Happify app logo with a black h in the middle and rainbow circle around it
Happify (iPhone / Android)
Happify is an app that uses scientific games and activities to help you overcome negative thoughts and stress of everyday life. Although this app does require a subscription fee, there are some free services and a trial available to make sure that it’s the right fit.
5 minute journal logo with triangle and starburst
Five Minute Journal (iPhone / Android)
This free app offers you a five-minute gratitude journal. All it takes is a few minutes to jot down whatever is on your mind. The app allows you to track your mood, offers inspirational quotes, and so much more!
Tick Tick app logo with yellow checkmark and blue half circle around it
TickTick (iPhone / Android)
TickTick is an app that helps you get things done. In short, it’s a to-do list that can help you organize your life. The app allows you to create to-do list items with your voice, making it simple, easy, and accessible. Users can create recurring tasks and set timers for how long you want the task to take.
Colorfy app logo with coloring sheet and colored pencils
Colorfy (iPhone / Android)
Colorfy is an art-based coloring game that allows you to relax and unwind, all from the comfort of your device. Never worry about coloring outside the lines again! With this digital version of a coloring book, you’ll be creating beautiful works of art in no time.
Is It Okay to Put Yourself First?
Experts say yes. Check this out!
Putting ourselves first may sound selfish. If you ONLY put yourself first in every situation, well, that might be a little selfish. But, in order to be healthy physically and mentally, you have to make yourself a priority sometimes. It's okay... really! Check out what these smart people have to say about it...
Why You Should Start Putting Yourself First - Joy Randolph
Why you need to put yourself first - Mel Robbins
Take Care of Yourself First - Trent Shelton
I put myself first for a year and this is what happened - Raimi Reyes
A young male sitting on a bench with his head in his hands
Priority #1 During COVID Times: Self-Care!
How Stress Can Have a Major Impact on Health for All People
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

There is no doubt the importance of taking care of our health. COVID-19, and all the upheaval with school-closings, businesses shutting down, and less interactions with the community, have negatively affected youth health. Case in point: Currently, I’m mentally stressed and my body is stressed from my recovery from the effects of COVID-19, and I have gained four pounds in one month.

Below are some statistics on youth health from a survey given from June 2020 to February 2021 from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Before COVID-19, youth mental health was not good, and during the height of COVID-19, it was found that:

  • 37% of high school students reported poor mental health
  • 44% of youth interviewed stated they were feeling “sad or helpless” during the first year of the pandemic

The World Health Organization did a review of articles on the effects of the pandemic on adults. They found that adults had higher weight gain, more consumption of “junk food,” and less physical activity. If this is true for adults, it’s not too hard of a stretch to believe that youth are affected too.

So, what can you do to help yourself and care for yourself? Here are some things that you can do to lower your stress and improve your health:

  • Get involved in your school activities, church, or in the community.
  • Ask an adult or KYEA to help you find a mentor. Contact with a supportive adult can really help.
  • Your Mama says - Be more physically active, limit the junk food, and drink more water.
  • Dude, get some more sleep!
  • Talk with your school counselor about sadness or depression that you just can’t get rid of. They can help!

We often don’t realize how much stress is affecting our health. Don’t let it get out of hand. Read through this newsletter and start practicing some self-care!

Artist Spotlight

Putting the spotlight on artists with disabilities across our state!
Photo of Daniel- a hispanic man wearing glasses and a hat and holding a pad to draw on
Daniel Perez

A Little About the Artist:
Hey, my full name is Roberto Daniel Perez Martinez, but my friends call me Daniel or Danny. I’m 37 years old. I’m from El Salvador, a small country in Latino America. I been living here in Kansas almost 2 years and I live alone with Koda, my 16 months old Black Labrador. I’m an artist and I really love to draw and painting, also I like to play the guitar, read (even nutritional facts in the label of products, LOL) and learn something new. I am hard of hearing, but I consider myself a deaf person since I was 12 years old, but I got to use to talk using my voice to communicate. My native language is Spanish; then I learned Spanish sign language; now I’ve had to learn American Sign Language and improve a little bit more in English. I’ve been so excited since the first day that I crossed SKIL’s door and Shari offered me an opportunity to apply for a job with them. I’m having the time of my life here and hope to be here for a long time helping to build a more inclusive and open minded society for all.
Drawing of female wheelchair user with amputated legs holding a sign that says Fix the system not me
Drawing of a male and female at a table using sign language and a man walking with a cane in the background
Youth with Disabilities Making Their Mark at Recent Events
Kirstianna speaks into a microphone as she sits under a tent outdoors and an interpreter follows along next to her
1st Annual Disabled and Proud Parade a Success!
New Event Brings Disability Pride to the Capitol City
by Kirstianna Guerrero, KSYLF '18 and Faces '19 Alumna
To say that we are proud of our alumna, Kirstianna Guerrero, is an understatement. Kirstianna has definitely been using her leadership skills in big ways, recently creating her own non-profit and organizing Kansas' first ever Disabled and Proud Parade. This is a big deal for our state. Check out all of the details of this awesome annual event!

On July 23, 2022, the 1st Disabled & Proud Parade of Kansas was held in Topeka with the goal of celebrating the beauty and diversity of the Disability Community while creating visibility, awareness, and acceptance throughout the state. Fifteen floats circled the Capitol Building each representing different parts of our community including Mental Health, Veterans, Physical Disabilities, Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, Invisible Disabilities, Autism, Independent Living Centers, and more as visual descriptions of the floats, the organization names, and why Disability Pride is important to celebrate were announced.

Following the parade was a resource fair of 11 booths ranging from government programs for People with Disabilities and organizations run by People with Disabilities, to individuals sharing how passions can become resources of empowerment. This monumental event closed with speeches beginning with singing the national anthem, opening prayer, and the organizer, Kirstianna Guerrero, sharing what Disability Pride is, followed by the History of the Disability Rights Movement that brought us to this event. She then introduced 2 other Disabled Women that delivered speeches about who they are, what Disability Pride means to them, and how they work to impact their communities. There were roughly 300 people in attendance this inaugural year.

It was so meaningful to experience an event like this firsthand and know all the work that went into it being brought to life. The unity shown both by People with Disabilities celebrating the community they belong to, and Non-Disabled people experiencing what disability actually looks like, was amazing to witness!

Visit the Parade website for more information on the first year of this event, how to support the future of this event by donating, and stay updated as plans for next year's event are underway. While details are still in consideration, contact me (Kirstianna) with questions or inquiries to be involved at 785-430-1088 or
A group of females with various disabilities wave to a crowd as they ride on a float during the parade with the Capital in the background
A circle of some youth and three adults laughing and listening to each other in a big room
Kansas Youth Attend and Advocate at Disability Caucus

The Kansas Disability Caucus was back in person and youth with disabilities could be seen everywhere at the Caucus! This year's Caucus was held on August 10-12 at the Hotel Topeka at City Center. Over 200 people were in attendance, including a large group of youth. The Caucus was complete with regional breakout sessions, many informational sessions, a dance, an awards banquet, and more!

One of the highlights of the event was the Youth Unite! gathering. Many youth who attended were able to get to know each other, do an advocacy scavenger hunt, and had their own Caucus brainstorming session on issues facing youth in our state. A couple of youth attendees were then able to report out to the entire Caucus group at the end of the event.

Thank you to youth with disabilities in our state for showing up, representing, and demonstrating that the youth movement is alive and well!

Here are a few comments from some youth that attended the Caucus from Salina:

“It was my first experience at a conference, and I’m excited to go to more.” - Penny

"[It was] great! I got to see people I knew!" - Michael F.

"[It was] fun! I want to go again!" 
- Michael S.

"I really liked it! I made new friends!" 
- Tiffany

“It was like a vacation!” - Ronald

Another exciting part of the Caucus was the Awards Banquet where KYEA family members were honored with various awards, including our very own Executive Director. Here are the awardees and their relationship to KYEA:

Youth Achievement Award- Isabel Einwich, youth in Bel Aire

Youth Achievement Award- Shane Lewis, KSYLF '19 and Faces '20 Alumni

Grassroots Advocacy Award- Julia Connellis, KYEA Executive Director

Roger Frischenmeyer Peer Mentor Award- Anthony Frischenmeyer, KSYLF Volunteer

Roger Frischenmeyer Peer Mentor Award- Stephanie Sanford, KSYLF Volunteer
Four youth taking a selfie while holding up their scavenger hunt papers
Two males at the front of a room speaking into a microphone and reading off of a paper
Julia holds her award and stands next to Noelle and Phillip after receiving her Grassroots Advocacy Award

Community Power!
Highlighting helpful resources throughout the state

Autism Society - The Heartland
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

Who is Autism Society- The Heartland (ASH)? ASH is an affiliate of the Autism Society of America and the only chapter in Kansas and Missouri. Their office is in Overland Park, however, ASH mainly provides information and referral services (I&R) in the greater Kansas City area. They have expanded I&R, and support groups, to Lawrence, and are interested in expanding to Topeka too.
A young boy wearing an Autism Society shirt puts his arms in the air in celebration and has a joyful look on his face
Have You Heard?
Opportunities in Kansas
Do you have ADHD? Would you like to meet other people with your disability and learn about topics that could help you? There is a whole organization in Kansas City just for you! ADHDKC is an organization that provides support for people of all ages. Here are a few opportunities that you might be interested in:

ADHDKC Teen Monthly Meeting- October will be focused on anger management.
October 4, 7:30 pm
Open to middle school and high school students!

Music-Based Practical Skills Development Workshop
October 11, 6:00-7:00 pm
Horizon Academy in Roeland Park
A workshop for parents and youth. Through music-based activities, participants will learn how to use positive self-talk, manage impulse control, improve self-regulation skills, and more.

ADHDKC Women's Group- October will be focused on clearing the clutter before the holidays!
October 23, 3:00 pm
Green Door Bookstore, Overland Park

Opportunities on a National Level

Want to meet other youth with disabilities from across the country? Attend the virtual APRIL Youth Conference! The best part? It's free to all youth with disabilities! The APRIL Youth Conference Track will be held from 8:00-9:30 pm CST through the duration of the main APRIL Conference: October 10-14. The theme for this year is "Every Body Every Mind."

The AAPD Summer Internship is back! This program places college students, graduate students, law students, and recent graduates with all types of disabilities in paid summer internships with Congressional offices, federal agencies, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations within the Washington, DC area and nationwide. For Summer 2023, AAPD will offer a hybrid internship program with some interns joining remotely from across the country in addition to the interns based in DC. Apply by October 24. Learn more

The AAPD Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award is seeking nominations! This award recognizes emerging leaders or groups with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two (2) individuals or groups will each receive $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases opportunities for people with disabilities and $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the disability community. Apply by October 12. Learn more

SCHOLARSHIP! Presidential Scholars Program
The Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors high school seniors who have demonstrated high achievement academically or in the arts; some having to overcome challenges or hurdles to do so. Each school may only nominate two students, one for each program. The nomination deadline is Oct. 5, 2022. Learn more

Applications for the 2023 U.S. Senate Youth Program are available now. This program brings the highest-level officials from each branch of government together with an outstanding group of high school students — two high school juniors or seniors from each of the fifty states — during an intensive week-long educational program held in Washington, D.C. Each student also receives a one-time $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science. Applications are due by Oct. 7, 2022. Learn more
A chalk board with the word feedback written on it and thought bubbles above feedback
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