Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy banner with stocking hat

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #29
December 2014
in this issue
:: From Carrie's Perspective
:: KYEA Receives AT&T Grant
:: KYEA Awarded Maximus Grant
:: "What YLF Has Done for Me"
:: KSYLF Application Deadline Extended
:: Holidays in December
:: Question of the Month
:: State and National Opportunities
:: Youth Ability of the Month: Cartoon from Josh Edwards
:: 28 Youth Attend Empower Me Series Workshop
:: Mentoring Matters Luncheon Kicks Off New Program
:: KYEA Top 10 Moments of 2014
:: Spotlight On: Youth Who Gives Back
:: ICON Intern Gives by Sharing His Talents
:: Shopping On the Web
:: New Year Brings New Promises for the Future

colorful ornaments
Happy Holidays! Can you believe that 2014 is coming to an end? The year has flown by, and people everywhere are preparing for some kind of holiday this month. At KYEA, we value diversity, so, this month, we are not just focusing on Christmas or Hanukkah or any other specific holiday, but rather on the topic of giving! No matter what holiday that you celebrate, it seems as if December is a month of giving. So, this issue, we bring you various articles about giving back... not just giving presents, but giving of your time and talents. Read about how local youth with disabilities give of themselves throughout the year.

As 2014 draws to a close, we have lots of positive news to share at KYEA! Read below for the full scoop on the exciting things that have been happening for us. Also, we want to take some time to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our youth, KYEA family and friends, and supporters who have helped make our organization and programs a success this year! We could not empower and support youth with disabilities in our state without your assistance. You all really are our gift!

So, here's to an exciting and empowering new year full of great opportunities and growth! We wish this for KYEA, and we wish this for you. See you all in 2015!!

- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator 
From Carrie's Perspective
by Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
Carrie Greenwood


The year is almost over, and I know that you all were so excited to read one last "Behind Julia's Glasses" of 2014. Unfortunately, our fearless leader recently had surgery on her eyes and is recuperating at home. Have no fear! This month, you get things "From Carrie's Perspective."


This past week, as I realized that I would have to take a stab at this whole editorial writing thing, I was taken back to memories of high school. Many people don't know, but for three years of high school, I was on the school newspaper staff. I even worked my way up to Managing Editor my senior year. With this position, I had to write an editorial (aka. My opinion) article for each issue. I remember being nervous about writing these articles. Every month, I had to put my opinion and my writing skills on display for the whole school body to see.  While this was nerve wracking, it also taught me a very good lesson... when we rise above our fear and share our gifts and talents, the reward is SO worth it!


Do you have gifts that you have been given? No, I'm not talking about a new iPad or the latest video game or some stylin' new jeans. While those are great too, I'm talking about gifts that you can share with other people. What are you good at? What is that one thing that you do really well... maybe even better than most people? When is the last time that you told someone about this talent or even showed them?

I have truly been given some wonderful gifts. I try to use these gifts in a variety of different ways. In the long run, when I share my gifts, others can benefit from them. Continue reading
Two Thumbs Up for KYEA!!  
A lot has been happening in the KYEA world, and we wanted to share it with you! From new grant awards to exciting programs and events, 2014 is ending with a bang. Read below and to the right for our latest great news...
AT&T Foundation to Support New FACES of Change Program   

A new program will be taking shape at KYEA thanks to AT&T! KYEA was recently awarded with a $10,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation that will go towards creating and building our new FACES of Change program. This program will be a second level leadership training program for young people with disabilities. A huge thank you to AT&T for making FACES come to life!


KYEA staff and supporters with AT&T check
(l-r) Mike Scott- AT&T, Emily House, Senator Vicki Schmidt, Carrie Greenwood, Johnna Godinez, Dezarae Marcotte, Heather Smith- KDHE, Patrick Dahlman, Julia Thomas, and Kayzy Bigler- KDHE
KYEA Awarded Grant from Maximus Foundation

KYEA was awarded a second grant recently that will go towards another one of our programs. The Maximus Foundation has awarded KYEA with $2,500 that will help grow our Mentoring Matters program. This program will provide year-round job shadowing opportunities to youth with disabilities. Thank you so much to Maximus for believing in this program and in KYEA!


KYEA staff and Maximus rep with grant check
(l-r) Carrie Greenwood, Michelle Brooks- Maximus representative, Patrick Dahlman, and Johnna Godinez
Emily House
"What YLF Has Done for Me" 

by Emily House, KSYLF Alumni '11 and Recruitment Team Member

"Since YLF, I have realized that I do have a voice and that I deserve to be heard! I have always been independent in doing the things that I need to do for myself to be successful. Now, with YLF, I have learned even more ways to be successful. I am now a much stronger advocate for myself. I am not afraid to stand up for myself, what I feel is right or wrong, and I voice my opinion when necessary thanks to YLF. YLF has also made me into a stronger woman who is proud to be disabled and that I can do anything when I put my mind to it! Thank you YLF!"
Do you want to have an experience like Emily had? 

Then apply for our 2015 KS Youth Leadership Forum!
KSYLF logo with dove The delegate application deadline for the 2015 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum has been extended to February 2, 2015. This extension is being made in order to provide more youth with the opportunity to apply this year. So, do you know of a high school junior or senior with a disability who has leadership potential or interest? Then they still have time to apply for this year's KSYLF! During the forum, delegates enjoy a week full of learning, fun, friends, and, most of all, a new sense of empowerment!
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, 2014  
  • have demonstrated leadership potential or interest in school and the community
Learn more about KSYLF and print an application
It's Time for the Holidays! A time of giving, celebrating, and joy for all people... 
Holidays in December... there is something for everyone!

Sure, most of us know about Christmas, but did you know that many people all over the world celebrate other holidays this month? Take a look below at the various celebrations that are recognized by different cultures and religions.


dreidel and coins Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. It is the celebration of when the Maccabean Jews, a small group of fighters, liberated and regained control of Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire, the Syrian Greeks who occupied it. Once it was reclaimed, they wanted to light the Temple's Menorah, but discovered there was only enough oil to last one day. Miraculously, the oil fueled the flame for eight days. Because of this, Hanukkah is an eight day celebration during which many Jewish families have festive meals, play games and give gifts to children. Each night during Hanukkah, a flame is lit on the Menorah. The dates of this holiday vary every year, but it always begins near the end of November or in December.



Kwanzaa kinara Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that honors African heritage in African-American culture and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. The seven days of Kwanzaa match the seven principles celebrated during the days, which stress unity of the African American people and the importance of community. Kwanzaa celebrations may have a specific "African" flair. The home may be decorated in colorful African cloth, and people may dress in tradition clothing. Christians who celebrate Kwanzaa may have the Christmas tree, and the kinara, the special menorah, which holds the seven candles representative of the Kwanzaa principles.



Nativity scene with baby Jesus Oftentimes, the most widely known December holiday! Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary. Christians celebrate his birth on December 25 each year. Jesus' birth marked a time when people traveled far and wide to visit the newborn whom they believe to be the Son of God, and brought him gifts to celebrate his birth. Over the years, Christmas has also largely been focused on Santa Claus, a jolly old man who delivers presents to good boys and girls Christmas Eve. Christmas is generally a time when people put up and decorate a tree with ornaments, put lights on their house, and gather to exchange gifts. Many Christians also decorate with a nativity.



Yule log with candles Yule, observed on December 21, is the celebration of the return of the sun by Pagans. During the days leading up to the first day of winter, the days grow shorter as the sun rises. The sun rises a fraction earlier and sets a fraction later each day, providing more light as the days pass. The Norse people took this as a time for feasting and celebrations. To celebrate, many Pagan families gather for a large feast, the traditional dessert of Yule Log, putting up a tree and exchanging gifts. Discussions about the rotation of the earth and all the changes that occur during this season are also common.    


Bodhi Day

lit up tree with Buddha statue in front Bodhi Day is the day that Buddhists celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha. This holiday is celebrated on December 8. This day marks the "great awakening" of Buddha when he sat for 49 days, going into a deep meditative state for the last 8 and fasting for 7. In order to celebrate, many Buddhists string up multi-colored lights or light candles. Some choose to do additional meditating, some chant Buddhist texts, and others simply perform kind acts for one another. One of the traditions is to celebrate with a meal of cake, tea and readings.


Information obtained from dailymom.com and wisegeek.org.

"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." -- Kahlil Gibran

Question of the Month  

Is it better to receive or to give? Why?

quotation mark Better to give. It's a wonderful feeling to give and watch people's expressions of joy to have received something they may not have and need.
- Dayna Rucker, KSYLF Alumna '09

To give someone a gift, because I like to see family and friends happy.
- Amber Dipman, KYEA Former Intern and Volunteer

My favorite quote inspired to me by YLF was, "You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give." It inspires me and drives me to help and give whenever I can.
- Thad Smith, KSYLF Alumni '07

Christ Himself said that it is more blessed to give than to receive and He proved that by His own example. He gave His life for us, so the only thing left to do is to give our life to serve Him!
- Tiffany Walter, KSYLF Alumna '03

Better to give. You give room to receive more that you didn't have!
- Ian Otinga, KSYLF Past Volunteer

If you give with a 100% pure heart, you always receive back 10 times that; but, if you think of that when giving, it never happens.
- Rosie Cooper, KYEA Board Member

It's better to give because you'll feel blessed.
- Rochelle Kinney, KSYLF Alumna '05

quotation mark It is better to give because you can get happiness when you give to someone you love.
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11
News and Events


Opportunities in Kansas


- The Kansas Department of Health and Environment wants to hear from you! This agency will be having meetings in different cities to gain feedback on health services for children and youth in our state. Have a good or bad experience in healthcare? Attend a meeting in your area and share this experience and your ideas. View upcoming meeting dates

- Guess what is coming back??? The Kansas Disability Caucus! Are you as excited as we are?! The Caucus has long been one of the largest gathering of people with disabilities in our state, and it is returning in August 2015! We will send out more information as it becomes available.


- Do you know a woman who is wheelchair mobile in Kansas that would be a great spokesperson and role model? Ms. Wheelchair Kansas is currently searching for contestants to take part in their 2015 event! Women can be nominated or can choose to participate. This is not a beauty pageant... this is a program that focuses on achievements, communication skills, and empowerment! To learn more, visit the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas website.


- A date has been set for the 2015 Autism Summit! This event will be on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at the Easter Seals Capper Foundation in Topeka. The Summit is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about living a successful life with autism. Contact the Capper Foundation for more information.  


- The ADA Legacy Tour will be stopping in Topeka on March 17-20, 2015. Check out this awesome tour bus that celebrates 25 years of the ADA! Learn more 



Opportunities on a National Level


- Youth with disabilities are making change on a national level! The National Council on Independent Living wants to get more youth involved in their national conference and in the independent living movement. Are you interested? To get more involved, contact NCIL's new Youth Caucus chair, Angela West, at angela.y.west@gmail.com. NCIL is also focusing much of their 2015 national conference on the next generation of advocates. Learn more by visiting the NCIL website.

- Do you know your rights as a person with a disability when it comes to healthcare? Watch this new "What You Need to Know" video to learn all about medical examinations and what's required to ensure equal access to healthcare.


- Do you know an outstanding individual who demonstrates leadership, advocacy, and dedication to and for the disability community at large? Then nominate them for the national Paul G. Hearne AAPD Award! Two individuals emerging as leaders in the cross-disability civil rights movement will each receive a cash award in order to help them continue their progress as leaders. Nominations are due by January 2, 2015. Learn more

- A new law has been passed that might be of interest to you! Currently, people with disabilities who depend on federal health or income benefits, such as Medicaid or SSI, are not allowed to save more than $2,000 in assets. The ABLE Act would allow individuals who acquire a significant disability before age 26 to save money for many disability-related expenses such as education, transportation, or employment without jeopardizing important health or income supports. Learn more

- In 2015, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act! How has this law been important to you? How has it impacted your life? Share the impact of the ADA from the youth perspective. The Public Insight Network wants to hear your experience.
Learn more

Youth Ability of the Month  

Celebrating the unique talents of our youth across the state!
Colorful cartoon by Josh Edwards
Cartoon by Josh Edwards, KSYLF Alumni 2010 and Recruitment Team Member
Click the cartoon above to see it up close
Facebook logo, a blue square with a white lowercase Check Us Out on Facebook!
Keep up to date on the latest KYEA happenings, help us connect with you, and meet other youth with disabilities around the state!


Be on the lookout for our February issue focused on relationships!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA, and consider donating, by going to our website at www.kyea.org!

Let us know what you think about our newsletter! If there is anything that we can do to make our newsletter more accessible to you, please call us at 785-215-6655 so we can make the change for next time.

Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy

Twenty-Eight Kansas City Youth Attend Empower Me! Series "Now Hiring" Workshop 


Now Hiring logo Twenty eight youth in the Kansas City area took a big step toward being successful in employment by attending KYEA's first ever Empower Me! Series (EMS) workshop! EMS is a new program that attempts to bring real life topics to youth with disabilities across the state. KYEA will be hosting three workshops in different cities over the course of this year. The first took place in Kansas City last month!

KYEA partnered up with the Coalition for Independence for this one day workshop, held November 22, for youth with disabilities entitled "Now Hiring." Attendees learned all about how to be successful in employment. They heard from a panel of people with disabilities who are working, explored their own talents and job interests, wrote their own resume, experienced a mock job interview, enjoyed some role playing that demonstrated soft skills in the workplace, and heard a presentation on communication and advocacy. The attendees also filled out their very own Individual Empowerment Plan focused on long and short term job goals. The day was complete with fun moments, giveaways, great food, and opportunities to meet other youth with disabilities.

This first Empower Me! Series workshop was a huge success! The youth who attended came away with a greater knowledge of employment, as well as a better idea of their future job interests. While there was lots of learning happening, the day was also filled with lots of laughs and the typical feel of a "day with KYEA."

A big thanks to all of the youth who attended! Also, a huge thanks to the Coalition for Independence for partnering with us, hosting us at their location, and to the staff members who helped out at the workshop! Lastly, thank you to Planet Sub, Pizza Hut, and Walgreens for providing in kind donations.

Catch an Empower Me! Series workshop coming to your area soon! We will be in Wichita in March and then in Parsons in June. Hope to see you there!  

Mentoring Matters Luncheon Kicks Off New Job Shadowing Program


Mentoring Matters logo- hand holding a heart and name Mentoring Matters

by Johnna Godinez, VISTA Program Support


KYEA's first ever Mentoring Matters Luncheon was a success! Eighteen people attended the luncheon and nine signed up to be a mentor or a mentee. This new service was introduced with an emphasis on how this mentoring program is so different from other programs: it is specifically designed for youth with disabilities and is focused on providing job shadow opportunities for the purposes of career development.


During the Luncheon, Trey Morgan and Dezarae Marcotte, ICON alumni, presented on how mentors have had a positive impact on their lives and how their mentor's encouragement has supported them in their employment journeys. We are so proud of you!


Chris Fisher, of WIBW-TV, was our emcee for this event. It was wonderful to work with him again. Thanks Chris! Lee Ryan, of NexLynx, and Shiloah Hutsen, of Subway Restaurants, served as speakers and described their individual stories of their involvement with mentoring youth. It was motivating to hear their personal messages of how important it is to mentor youth with disabilities. Lee and Shiloah both made commitments to serve as mentors for the Mentoring Matters service when called upon. Also, a big KYEA thank you to the volunteers from Lifeshare/Sunflower for serving as table facilitators. You all helped make this Luncheon a success! 

KYEA Top 10 Moments of 2014!
Top 10 Our favorite part of the December newsletter... our yearly Top 10! All year round, KYEA staff go full speed ahead. Oftentimes, we forget to look back and really smile at the standout moments of the year. Here, in no particular order, we look back and celebrate why we love working at KYEA... 
1. Passing the bar to my friend Traci Turner who was awarded the "Spirit of Hope" Award. (Johnna)

2. Our first Empower Me! Series workshop in Kansas City- it was great to take KYEA on the road, and what a great group of youth that we had!

KYEA staff, dressed in pajamas, look down at Julia sleeping on the floor 3. Pajama Day on Halloween- our yearly tradition! Always a top moment at KYEA. (Carrie)

4. Teaching ICON Patrick how to cook chili (Johnna)

5. Lunch time every day- it's not just one day, but we, as staff, have the best moments eating lunch together... especially when interns are around! (Carrie)

Youth waving garage sale signs on sidewalk near street 6. Garage Sale- not only did we raise money, but we saw mentoring in action between two of our youth. We love those moments!

7. KSYLF 2014- always a highlight of our year... we can still hear "I am UNSTOPPABLE!" ringing in our ears.

KYEA youth and staff dressed up for AccessiBall 8. Attending the AccessiBall at KU- an outing not to be forgotten, complete with dancing, laughing, and meeting new people!

9. Cutting up with Kelsey while we planned the Mentoring Matters Luncheon. (Johnna)

10. Presentation for Interpersonal Skills Class at Manhattan High- we love presenting to this group each year, and this year's group was so impressive and outstanding! (Carrie) 
Spotlight On! 
Youth Who Gives Back:
Allison Nichols, Topeka


by Dallas Hathaway, Guest Writer    

December is often recognized as the time of year for giving. Giving does not always require money. There are so many other ways to give... we can give of our time, and we can give of our talents. Allison Nichols, ICON Alumna, does just that! Read on to see how she gives back to her community...

Allison Nichols with award 

When I first came in contact with Allison Nichols, a few days ago, I met a bright and bubbly young woman. She is a graduate of Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, and lives with Down syndrome. Throughout our conversation, I learned that she does not let her disability prevent her from being an active and inspiring member of her local community. 


For the past 13 years, Allison has participated in the Special Olympics. Some of the sports she is involved in include: volleyball, bowling, and cheerleading. Being a team member allows her to socialize and make new friends. She participates in sports year-round and motivates others by giving speeches to groups about her activities and her disability through the Global Messenger program. "I love it!" she said, with a large smile.


Another portion of Allison's involvement includes her work with seniors at Atria Hearthstone in Topeka. "Sometimes we play UNO," she said. When the opportunity presents itself, she also helps out with birthday parties for the residents, as well as delivering the gifts.


Because Allison has been so willing to give back to her community, she was recently honored as one of Topeka's Top 20 Under 40. Those who are nominated must demonstrate leadership skills and have enthusiasm to inspire the under 40 population.


In her spare time, Allison enjoys listening to Country music. When asked who her favorite artist is, she replied, "easy, that's Scotty McCreery." In the future, Allison would like to spend time dancing and cooking.  


I thoroughly enjoyed spending time getting to know Allison. She seems like a hardworking young woman who loves to take advantage of opportunities. I have no doubt that Allison will continue to work hard giving back to the community, while challenging others to do the same.  

KYEA Intern Gives by Sharing His Talents 
One youth shares how
he has developed his gift of music...
by Patrick Dahlman, ICON Intern

Patrick Dahlman My musical talents are that I play guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, violin, and I sing. What got me started in music was my mom. She had me start piano lessons when I was five years old. When I was a kid, I did not like playing the piano. I was really interested in the violin, so, in the fourth grade, I got the chance to start playing at school and, of course, I chose the violin as my instrument. As I progressed in the violin, I noticed in high school that I wanted to try some other instruments. I had always wanted to play the guitar, so I asked my orchestra teacher about good guitar teachers, and he mentioned a guy named Chip Janda. I met him, and I have been taking lessons with him now for almost six years. A year ago, I decided I would like to try the drums. I found a teacher, and we have a lot in common, which I like. My rhythm has really gotten better in a whole year.


I have shared my talents with my mom's church and KYEA. At my mom's church, I play once a month with a group. At KYEA, I played for the Mentoring Matters Luncheon. The reason why I love being a musician is because I get to share my feelings with people though the music. I love it when people say, "I feel your music. It's like you were talking to me." That always feels good and is great to hear. I also like being a musician because it is what I am good at. I have always had to work hard on my instruments. Some of the things I play come easy for me, other things don't. I am now a huge heavy metal fan. One of my favorite bands is Lamb of God and The Ghost Inside. I really got into heavy metal in high school. That's the kind of music I write and enjoy playing.


Because Christmas is right around the corner, I wanted to share that my favorite Christmas carol is Carol of the Bells. The reason why I enjoy this piece of music is how dark and beautiful it can be to hear and to play. I love playing it on the piano and the guitar. I especially love it on the guitar because I can add some distortion to the guitar and make the piece sound really dark. I have played Carol of the Bells for a very long time. I have played different arrangements of it many times. Lots of people cover the song, from jazz to heavy metal. A band that I like covered the song. The band is called August Burns Red, and you can hear their version on YouTube. They did a compilation record with other artists and the sales from the record went to charities. If you would like to know more about Carol of the Bells, click here.


View a clip of Patrick sharing his musical talent 

Shopping On the Web!

Unique gifts only found online
yellow gift box Still have some shopping to do? These gifts may not get to you in time for the holiday, but they will surely be unique. From products made by people with disabilities to unique sites with just about everything, check out these websites for one-of-a-kind gifts...

JennyLu Designs
Unique artwork made by local youth Jenny Unrein. Jenny sells everything from cards to jewelry to artwork!

A company that sets out to change perceptions about disability... just one reason that we love them! This company sells all kinds of products with the familiar wheelchair heart logo.

Looking for a motivational gift? Successories is perfect for you! This site is full of pictures, notepads, calendars, and other products with motivational quotes on them.

Jeffrey Hanson
Check out the awesome artwork that this Kansas youth creates! If you are looking for an expensive piece of art or maybe just some unique note cards, Jeffrey sells both!

Talk about unique! You can find most anything on this site. Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world make, sell and buy unique goods.

Unicef Cards and Gifts
Purchase products and give back to children around the world! Unicef sells one-of-a-kind cultural inspired gifts like jewelry, cards, home decor, accessories, and more.

We had to list Amazon as you can buy pretty much anything on this website. Looking for a specific type of gift? Visit Amazon, and they probably have it there. 
New Year Brings New Promises for the Future
A new year is right around the corner! Read below for one youth's perspective on how resolutions can be turned into promises for positive growth in 2015...


by JennyRay McGee, Guest Writer   

JennyRay McGee
"The holiday season induces feelings of joy, love, happiness, family, friends, and faith. New Year's Eve signals the end of what once was; reminding people to embrace the New Year upon us.

2014 was a year of growth in my world. I uncovered parts of myself that I never knew existed, while rediscovering portions I let fizzle out long ago. Society uses January 1st as the designated time to set resolutions. In my case, they're broken three weeks later. So, for 2015, I've decided to switch it up, determining that, rather than making a list of little things I will not remember by March, I will substitute that list of resolutions for an agenda of promises to apply and follow in my daily routine.

The best part about having a disability is the ability to view the world from such a unique perspective. I thrive on the part of compassion and understanding it teaches us. It's that aptitude to relate with another person who's going through hard times of their own in life, even if they lack a disability.

Let's face it, when you have a disability, you've definitely experienced challenges at a certain point and time or maybe you're currently going through them. I find the most fulfilling part about overcoming those struggles is coming out on the other side victorious. That can adjust to multiple facets in life. Once I've worked through said obstacle, I often find my passion and fight renewed with vigor. I love sharing the gift of humility with others in the way I represent myself to the world, as a person with a disability. It sometimes takes an unlimited amount of courage to wake up and tackle your disability on a daily basis." Continue reading
Happy Holidays graphic with red gift