KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #34
February 2016 
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: KYEA Brings "It's My Life!" Workshop to Salina Youth
:: Next Up: "Relationships 411" Workshop in Lawrence!
:: Spotlight On: Dezarae Marcotte and LaDerrick Richardson
:: 6 Myths about Sexuality and Relationships
:: LGBTQ Resources in Kansas
:: Employment First Summit Coming in April
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA Updates
:: 5 Love Languages
:: Video: Dating with a Humorous Spin!
:: The Importance of Online Dating
:: 4 Tips for Healthy Relationships
:: From a Different Perspective: Helpful Articles
:: Community Power: Independent Connection in Salina

A bright red paper heart is sitting on a piece of wood
Flowers, hearts, chocolate... yep, it's February, and Valentine's Day is right around the corner! So, of course, it was only natural for us to focus this issue on love and relationships. We feel like this topic is so important to the youth that we serve, that you might just see this as a permanent newsletter topic in February. There is always something to say and learn about love in its various forms.

At KYEA, we are currently immersed in the world of relationships. Not only is our newsletter focused on this topic, but, in March, we are hosting our first "Relationships 411" workshop in the awesome city of Lawrence! Check out the details below. Our other programs are currently in full swing, as well, so read on for many opportunities to get involved!

There is no perfect way to do this thing called "love," nor are relationships easy to form and keep. Through this newsletter, though, we hope to provide you with some helpful information, firsthand stories, and lots of resources, as always! As you are reading, keep in mind what our oh-so-wise Director says below... love comes in many forms and should be expressed all year round.

We LOVE all of you! Enjoy our February newsletter!

- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator 
Through Julia's Eyes Julia Connellis in KYEA shirt
by Julia Connellis, Executive Director
"I Can. I Will!"

Love is patient, love is kind... blah, blah, blah!!  Love is hard work!  I have been married, and I have been divorced.  I have many friends and family that I love and many animals, throughout the years, that have captured my heart.  What I have learned, through all of these relationships, is that love takes intention, commitment, and consistency.

Although I am single, I absolutely enjoy the month of February!  I enjoy eating assorted chocolates packaged in a heart shaped box.  I enjoy knowing that people receive flowers from their loved ones, and I also enjoy observation of Black History Month and the honor that it brings.  Almost every day of the year, there is some type of observance of something.  It might be a national holiday, a day or week that brings attention to breast cancer, bring your child to work day, national pizza day or national chocolate day.  These all share one commonality- someone finds the person/culture/cause/object important enough to observe and honor them.  Where we get caught up, as human beings, is that we conclude the show of importance and love at the end of the day or the end of the month.  

Remember, love takes intention, commitment, and consistency all year round.  Love is supposed to be unconditional and have no bounds. Do not wait for the right time, month, person, etc., to express your love.  Show love to your partner, parents, friends, siblings, animals, culture, and, most of all, yourself, EVERYDAY.  I DARE you!
KYEA Brings "It's My Life!" Workshop to Salina Youth 
EMS It's My Life! participants and volunteers gather for a group photo.
The Empower Me! Series "It's My Life!" participants in Salina gather for a group photo with the volunteers as the day comes to an end.

Fifteen youth with disabilities in and around Salina are now more prepared for the real world and living independently. This group of youth recently gathered for our Empower Me! Series "It's My Life!" workshop! This was our first EMS workshop of the year, and our 4th since the beginning of this program. The day was a huge success, and we were excited to meet the youth in this part of the state!

KYEA partnered with Independent Connection for this one day workshop, held January 23. Attendees learned all about how to live independently, prepare for the real world, and take charge of their lives. They heard from a panel of local independent people with disabilities; listened to presentations on money management, housing, Vocational Rehabilitation, transportation, communication and decision making; explored their knowledge of independent living; obtained lots of local resources; and even enjoyed some role playing that demonstrated soft skills in everyday life. At the end of the day, participants went home with a better understanding of independence, new goals for their future, and a whole new set of friends and community supports!

A big thanks to all of the youth who attended! Welcome to the KYEA family! Also, a huge thanks to Independent Connection for partnering with us, hosting us, and to Kristi and Kim who helped out at the workshop!

camera View more photos of our Salina workshop

Next month, we head to Lawrence! Check out our next workshop below!
Next Up for EMS... Lawrence!

Join us as we bring you the complete lowdown on relationships, dating, friendship, and sexual health!

Relationships 411 logo with photos of couples and friends

"Relationships 4.1.1."  
Saturday, March 5 
10:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Independence, Inc. in Lawrence

We are joining forces with Independence, Inc. to bring you this much anticipated workshop!

We all deserve happy and healthy relationships! Spend a day with us learning about all types of relationships, dating, social skills, safety, sexual health, and more in an interactive group setting. Hear from speakers, participate in group discussions, meet other youth with disabilities, enjoy hands on activities, food, prizes, and more! This workshop is open to youth with disabilities, ages 15-25, who live in Lawrence or surrounding areas.
Register by FEBRUARY 26!

Learn more and print a registration 
Spotlight On!
Dezarae Marcotte and LaDerrick Richardson, Topeka

Dezarae and LaDerrick

Relationships can be hard. Throw a sudden, unpredictable disability in the mix and they become even harder. Dezarae and LaDerrick know this all too well. But they also know what it's like to overcome obstacles and rely on faith to make their relationship stronger. Read on for their story that proves how relationships can be wonderful if you put some work into them...

How and when did you both first meet?
DEZARAE: LaDerrick was working at a Wendy's. I stopped in to eat one day, and he approached me when eating my burger :). We exchanged numbers and went on a date that night and have been dating ever since.

What did you like about the other person? What attracted you to them?
DEZARAE: I was attracted to his boldness and upfront approach. Our first date was spent talking for hours and we had good chemistry. His looks played a big part in it too :). I like that he is strong willed, has good morals, and good character.
LADERRICK: I thought she was gorgeous, and, the first time I laid eyes on her, I knew I had to get her name. I like her faith and strength because I've seen her go through so many situations that most people would just give up on... but not her.

What do you like best about having a partner or being in a relationship?
LADERRICK: Having somebody that cares about you and wants nothing but the absolute best for you, and somebody that you can plan goals with.
DEZARAE: Having somebody that is always around. Having a man's point of view on things, and his security and strength. Somebody that likes/loves you enough to stick around willingly is awesome.

What do you like the least about having a partner or being in a relationship?
DEZARAE: Arguments, disagreements... we were raised very differently and bump heads sometimes on all kinds of things.
LADERRICK: Nagging... she tends to do that a lot. Boundaries suck too. We both agree that having to express our emotions sometimes gets annoying when we don't want to talk to each other.

How does Dezarae's disability affect your relationship?
LADERRICK: Sometimes I have to remind myself that she can't see as well, and I have to be her second pair of eyes. Also, I have to be okay with the uncertainty of her condition, that it may change for the worse or we may have to be in the hospital for periods of time. I have to be comfortable with that, and seeing her sick sometimes and taking care of her. I have to remember her body is fragile and that I have to pick up the slack sometimes.
6 Myths about Sexuality and Relationships

Road signs, pointing in opposite directions, that say true and false There are so many things to learn about sexuality, relationships, and dating. Sometimes, in the midst of learning, we are not sure what is true and not true. Keep reading as we list some of the common myths and give you the truth instead...
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
Myth #1 - Falling in love is the same as being in love.
All that wild passionate stuff (heart racing, dilated pupils, can't sleep or eat) is the first stage of love. Yes, it is wonderful, especially when it's shared, but let's face the facts... it comes to an end.  Good news - once that's over, don't break up, but move toward the second stage, which is a more fulfilling and deeper love. (Dr. Phil)

Myth #2 - The relationship would be perfect if only my partner would change.
Give it up! No one is responsible for your happiness, but yourself. Reality check - You are partly responsible for your relationship too. If you are unhappy, take the steps to identify why and work towards changing it. (Dr. Phil)

Myth #3 - Women cannot become pregnant and contract an STD (sexually transmitted disease) the first time they have sexual intercourse.
Sorry, but these are the hard cold facts. Young women have an STD infection rate of 30%, which is pretty high. Even scarier, this could affect your future reproductive health and may make getting pregnant impossible. If you are sexually active, use a condom, dental dams (for oral sex), but even better, get yourself tested, and require it of your partner too. When it comes to getting pregnant, the "first time" does not, has not, and will never function as some form of magical birth control/contraception that exempts you from getting pregnant. Your best options are: condoms, oral birth control taken properly, or abstinence. (Web MD)

Myth #4 - People with disabilities are asexual, or lack sexual feelings.
Untrue! People with disabilities have always had sexual feelings because it is part of the human experience.  (Sexuality and Disability Consortium)

Myth #5 - All people are attracted to the opposite gender and identify as either male or female.
Definitely not true! Some people are attracted to people who are the same gender as them. Some people are attracted to both genders. And some people don't necessarily experience attraction at all. When it comes to gender identity, some people are born with the body and reproductive organs of one gender, but they just do not feel connected to that gender. This is called being transgender. Many people who are transgender may change their name or undergo procedures in order to feel more comfortable in their body. Please keep in mind that our world is so diverse. That is what makes it so great! (See related resources below)

Myth #6 - People with disabilities should only marry and have sex with other people with disabilities.
This view portrays people with disabilities as less than human, and that any non-disabled person who would choose to date one of us, is looked at as self-sacrificial or a hero. Oh please! Choose to date a person with a disability because we're worthy, hot, sexy, funny, interesting, loving, intelligent, wonderful (you fill in the blank), etc. (Sexuality and Disability Consortium)

Myth #7 - The best relationships involve no arguing.
In fact, arguing with healthy guidelines can be beneficial to a relationship. It can be a stress reducer and bring peace to the relationship. Dr. Phil has some great healthy guidelines for arguments. Check them out!
Check out these Kansas resources for the LGBTQ community! 

LGBTQ symbol- a colorful rainbow flag As stated above in our myths article, many people in our world are a part of the LGBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and questioning). While we often hear of many LTBTQ groups and resources on a national level, oftentimes, people are not as aware of the resources right here in our state. Did you know that there are many advocacy groups for the LGBTQ community? Whether you are a part of this community, or you are an ally, there are many ways to get involved and find support. Check out these great resources right here in our state:  

Kansas Queer Youth Network- 
Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project- 
Equality Kansas-  
The Center (Wichita)- 
Wichita LGBT Health Coalition- 
Greater Wichita GLSEN chapter- 
PFLAG (Wichita)- 
PFLAG (Topeka)- 
PFLAG (Kansas City)- 
Beacon Youth Group- 
Lawrence Queer Youth Voice- 
Kansas City Anti-Violence Project- 
Passages (Kansas City)- 
LikeMe Lighthouse (Kansas City)-   
Employment First Summit to be Hosted in Topeka in April!

Magnifying glass over a newspaper and highlighting the word job In April, people with disabilities, their family members, and community advocates will gather in Topeka for two days completely focused on employment! Kansans with disabilities can and should be working, and this Summit will show that it is possible.

The 2016 Employment First Summit will take place on April 21-22, 2016 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka. This year's theme is, "Trailblazing: Charting Our Employment Path." The Summit will be full of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, vendors, and multiple opportunities to learn and meet new people! Our very own, Julia Connellis, will be in attendance and will be presenting!

Topics covered will include: What does employment mean to the life of a self advocate, the business case for employing people with disabilities, the Kansas Roadmap to Employment, and the Leadership Challenge of turning the dream of Employment First into a reality. Self advocates, families, providers and government officials are all encouraged to attend this Summit!

Learn more and register
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The Employment First Summit is coming to Topeka in April! If you want to learn how to be successfully employed as a person with a disability, then consider attending! See all the details in the box above.

- Would you like to help improve employment outcomes for Kansans with disabilities? Take this survey and provide your input. The Employment Systems Change Coalition is working on a report that will go to the State of Kansas and hopefully improve employment for people with disabilities in our state. By taking the survey, you will be entered into a drawing to receive $1,000 in gifts cards! Complete the survey 
Opportunities on a National Level
- In December, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. This law has a huge impact on students with disabilities and their education. Educate yourself on this new law! Read all about it

- RESOURCE! Transition Truths
This tool describes the systems that may affect youth with and without disabilities as they transition from youth to adulthood. Youth can use this tool with youth service professionals and other caring adults to learn about their rights within these systems, plan for their transition, and identify changes they can advocate for in their communities. Check it out

- RESOURCE! By Youth, For Youth- Employment
This is a new guide written by and for youth who want to know more about finding and keeping the right job. It discusses subjects such as: what makes a job right for each young person, job search and resume development, and how to interview for a job. It also covers disability disclosure and requesting accommodations, as well as provides resources on employment supports and services. View the guide

- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is now accepting applications for the 2016 Autism Campus Inclusion Leadership Academy! The ACI summer leadership training prepares students with Autism to create systems change on their college campuses. Accepted applicants will travel to Washington, DC and participate in advocacy training at Gallaudet University from May 28 to June 4, 2016. Participants will gain skills in community organizing, policy formation, and activism. The deadline to apply is February 21. Learn more

- Learning to drive is one of the coolest times for a teen, but facts have shown it can be extremely dangerous. The TeenDrive365 Video Challenge invites youth to create a 30-60 second video for their fellow teen drivers that highlights the importance of safe teen driving. Winners could get $15,000, or one of 14 other prizes! The contest ends March 7, 2016. Learn more
KYEA Updates
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
Faces of Change: "the next step" in leadership skills!   
Faces of Change logo with male and female head outlines in a globe

Are you interested in developing your leadership skills?  Have you had some formal or informal experiences with leadership that inspire you?

Join us for one weekend per month to hear real-life motivation from speakers, to develop team-building skills through active learning opportunities, and to develop a vision of change that YOU want to implement in your community!

Faces of Change is a 7-month program from April to October 2016 that focuses on LEADERSHIP SKILLS like motivation, communication styles, strengths, teamwork, mentors, and community challenges!

If you are: 
*    Between the ages of 16-25 and have a disability or special healthcare need  
*    Inspired by the thought of learning how to develop  a "Community Change" project 
*    Excited to learn new skills, meet other Kansas youth, and ready for fun and fulfilling challenges

Then we want to meet you!

The application deadline is February 29, 2016. If you have questions, contact Kalli at 785-215-6655 or

Print a Faces application

More volunteers needed for 2016 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum!

KSYLF logo with dove The 2016 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum is going to be here before we know it, and we need more volunteers! Do you like working with high school students with disabilities? Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate young adults with disabilities? Then we need you!

We seek committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program. Yes, we realize that a week is a big commitment, but you will not regret it, we promise! Just ask any of our past volunteers who have been changed by this program.

The 2016 KSYLF will be held on July 11-16, 2016 at Washburn University in Topeka. Volunteers can be KSYLF alumni, past volunteers, or anyone in our state who is over age 18. We are extending our volunteer application deadline to FEBRUARY 29. Apply to serve as a volunteer today!

Print a volunteer application  
5 Love Languages
Learning to show love that speaks to all relationships

A happy young couple with their arms around each other Did you know that each of us has a love language? What is yours? Learning about the different types of love languages can help with relationships of all types... your family, friends, partner, etc. Read below to find out how you can show love to the people in your life, in a way that speaks to them.

Words of Affirmation
Actions don't always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, "I love you," are important- hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time
With Quality Time, nothing says, "I love you," like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there-with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks set aside- makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Don't mistake this love language for being focused on material things; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous- so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an "Acts of Service" person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: "Let me do that for you." Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don't matter.

Physical Touch
This language isn't all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face- they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

Extracted from
Visit the 5 Love Languages website to take a quiz and find out your love language!
Should disability etiquette be used on a date?
YES! A hundred times YES! Watch this video below to see exactly why. While this video puts a funny spin on dating, it does show us what NOT to do. So, watch and take notes!
  A man and a woman on a date. The man is blind and the woman is helping him to feel his food.
Watch other "End the Awkward" videos for more dating and sexuality tips and a bit of humor!
Finding and Keeping Love
The importance of online dating!

by Dallas Hathaway, Newsletter Writer 

A woman is laying on the floor working on her laptop With Valentine's Day approaching, it is important to understand how online dating impacts finding a significant other. Changes in technology have made it easier for people to contact others with similar interests, hopefully making it easier to find that special someone. Although online dating may seem relatively easy, it is important for a person to develop trust before making any serious moves.

Danielle Willcott, who commented about her dating experiences on the KYEA Facebook page, provided some tips on how to make the dating process go more smoothly.

"I have learned a lot about how to compromise with another person," said Willcott. "For instance, if both people in the relationship have events going on the same day, we ask ourselves 'can we make both?'"

Another important tip that Willcott provided is understanding the importance of communication. She said that it is important to talk about everything involving the relationship and to never hide anything from your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Billy Clark, who was another person to comment on the Facebook page, had some specific experiences with mobile dating applications.

"I have met some amazing people, and I think one of them could be the one," Clark said. "So I say try and do what makes you happy, because the ones I have met have made me so much happier!!!"

All in all, online dating can be a new and exciting way to experience the world of dating in the 21st century. By putting yourself out there, you could possibly meet someone who will change your life. The key is to say honest, and be true to yourself.

As Willcott said in her post, "if you don't like something in the relationship, and cannot live with it for the rest of your life, then get out." In other words, find the person that makes you happy, and make the best out of life by spending time together. Good luck with your dating adventures!

Check out some of these most popular dating sites!

Meet Up (not a dating site, but definitely a good option for meeting people!)

4 Tips for Healthy Relationships
Wise words from a happy wife...

by Danielle Willcott, KSYLF Alumna '07 

"From my dating experiences, I have learned a lot about how to:

1. COMPROMISE with another person. For instance, if both people in the relationship have events going on the same day, we ask ourselves, "Can we make both?" If not, which one will we attend or will we attend the events by ourselves? Another situation... we would like to go out to eat, where will we go? I love Mexican, but my husband loves Chinese food.

2. COMMUNICATION follows compromising. You must have good communication skills. Talk about everything. Never hide anything from your girlfriend/boyfriend. If you do, it will bottle up and explode at them someday and that is never good. This will see if you can...

3. TRUST your significant other. If you can't trust one another, you will always be questioning each other's move. You should each be allowed to have days/nights with your friends without your significant other. This should be fine if you trust your boyfriend/girlfriend.

4. BE HAPPY. Your significant other should make you happy. Never settle for less. If you are constantly being let down or degraded for your future goals, GET OUT OF THE RELATIONSHIP! Don't keep telling yourself it will get better and you will change them, because it won't happen, and you will be depressed.

I feel these are key components to a healthy relationship. If you don't like something in the relationship and can't live with it for the rest of your life, then it might be time to end it. I've had a few relationships, and then my husband came around and showed me how a woman should be treated! To add to the mix, he often opens my door when we go places... A KEEPER! :)
From a Different Perspective
Helpful articles to get you thinking...

The greatest love... to love yourself! If you read nothing else today, read this article and learn to think positively about yourself.

Take this quiz to find out which important skills you have and are lacking. Then, have your partner answer about you! You might discover some interesting things about yourself.

Breaking up isn't just for romantic partners. Here's how to know if it's time to cut ties. A must read if you are questioning some of your friendships.

Are you ever at a loss for questions to ask your family member, friend, or partner? Here are 36 that will bring you closer together!

A first-hand perspective from a woman who is dating a man with Spina Bifida. A great perspective that proves that people with disabilities can have happy, healthy relationships!

No relationship is perfect, but you can work to have healthy relationships in your life. These keys really could be applied to many types of relationships.
Community Power! 
Circle with different types of disability logos Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state 
Independent Connection, Salina

Tyler Krajicek, KSYLF Alumni from Salina, shares just how Independent Connection helps people with disabilities become independent!

Independent Connection logo

Need help making decisions in your life? Seek out a Center for Independent Living (CIL) in your community.  In Salina, the local CIL is Independent Connection, and it is located at 1710 West Schilling Rd.  I am to talk about what Independent Connection can do for people with disabilities.  Consumers may find many helpful resources at Independent Connection.  A person who wants to work may have trouble applying for a job.  Independent Connection has resources to help them find a job that's a good fit, can provide support to them, and can assist them with details such as transportation, maintaining  a vehicle, or finding a bus route. For individuals that need more support, this CIL can educate consumers on programs that provide personal care assistants.  They can also provide peer counseling and help them get involved and make connections in the community. Consumers may request training on independent living skills, such as budgeting, cooking, ironing, etc. All CIL's believe that every individual should be treated fairly and have a sense of happiness and contentment about their living situation.

Independent Connection has exciting youth services! They provide pizza and entertainment gatherings, vocational development, helpful resources, and assistance when striving for independence.

Independent Connection serves a lot of different counties, including Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic and Saline.  This CIL currently has a small amount of staff, but will be expanding soon. If you have questions about Independent Connection, contact Kristi or Kim at 785-452-9580. You can even contact them just to learn about events going on in the community. To learn more about Independent Connection, visit

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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 next issue coming in May!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA, and consider donating, by going to our website at!

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