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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #27
September 2014
in this issue
:: Behind Julia's Glasses
:: 2014 KSYLF Delegates Prove to be UNSTOPPABLE!
:: KYEA Award Recipients
:: Spotlight On: A New School Year Begins
:: There's An App For That!
:: Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA Updates
:: Conversations: Stressful or Enjoyable?
:: The Fight Against Bullying
:: Question of the Month

Where has the summer gone?? We feel like it flew by, but KYEA has had a GREAT summer! How about you? We hope that you all rested, enjoyed the warm weather, took a vacation, and are now ready for a new school year!

It's here! Time to start up another year of school. If you are dreading this new year, remember what we said about change and starting new... it can bring amazing things into your life. So, welcome to our "Back to School" issue! This newsletter is full of tips and resources to be successful this year and even features one of our youth who is enjoying her fifth year at college.

This issue also features a few articles on anti-bullying. Unfortunately, school can oftentimes be the place where we experience bullying the most, especially for youth with disabilities. So, we wanted to bring you some advice and resources for how to deal with bullying and not let it get the best of you.

Along with these two topics, this newsletter features an overview of this summer's Kansas Youth Leadership Forum... welcome to our 19 new alumni!! There are lots of other things happening at KYEA, so read on to get the full scoop.

Here's to a fantastic new school year and new beginnings for everyone!
- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator 
Behind Julia's Glasses
by Julia Thomas, Executive Director
"I Can. I Will."

  Julia Thomas with cartoon sunglasses over her face. She is smiling and has her hand under her chin.

As a person who was continually bullied in middle and high school, I quickly determined that I hated school.  Once I entered college, I realized that school is not so bad after all.  I could hand select my classes, which gave me time to sleep in everyday, eat whatever I wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and, most of all, meet people that were similar and different from me!  In February of this year, I decided to go back to college and work on obtaining my master's degree in Organizational Leadership.  As much as this topic intrigues me, one of the best parts of being back in school is having great discussions with my classmates and professors about the topic at hand and how our life experiences have influenced our view of the world.  While some of you have heard me say that "networking" (a.k.a. partying) is an important experience of college, the deeper meaning to that statement is to get to know people who you sit next to in class or pass in the hallways.  We can never be great at our passion in life if we do not pop our bubble of comfort.  Sitting in class every Tuesday night has made me realize how I have unintentionally filled my bubble of comfort with those individuals who work in the disability field, have disabilities themselves or those who want to talk about equality all the time! I got so caught up in loving my work and living my passion, I was unknowingly excluding people who have different opinions and passions in life.   

The moral of this story is that education happens in and outside of the classroom.  So, no matter what you are passionate about in life, remember that those around you who have different points of view are as equally important as those who think the same as you do.  Take the time to learn the reasons behind others differing opinions and passions. If you are like me and get nervous holding conversations, then challenge yourself every day to say hi or smile at someone you do not know and who may appear to be different from you. Always remember that, if you want to be included, accepted and valued by others, the first step begins with you including, accepting and valuing others!
2014 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum Delegates Prove to be UNSTOPPABLE! 

2014 KSYLF delegates with Governor The 2014 KSYLF delegates pose for a group photo in the Governor's office with Governor Sam Brownback during the Day at the Capital. 


"I am UNSTOPPABLE!" This is exactly how 19 youth felt as they left this year's 14th Annual Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF). The delegates spent the week gaining the tools, resources, and support to reach their goals and take on the world! Now they are ready to go out and fulfill the "unstoppable" theme in their everyday lives.

KSYLF dove logo This year's KSYLF was held on July 15 - 19, 2014 at Washburn University in Topeka. Nineteen energetic, positive young leaders with disabilities attended the Forum. There were 23 staff members present throughout the week, including six KSYLF alumni who returned to serve as volunteers and share their experiences.

2014 KSYLF delegates and staff with Governor The KSYLF week was full of empowerment, great memories, and growth amongst the participants. The delegates demonstrated developing leadership and advocacy skills, as well as a determination to reach their future goals.

Notable guests included Teresa Nguyen, youth advocate and speaker from Colorado, who served as the keynote speaker at the Mentor Luncheon, and Anjali Forber-Pratt, wheelchair racing Paralympian, who served as the emcee at the Talent Show.
Awards Given out at KSYLF Mentor Luncheon

No KSYLF Mentor Luncheon is complete without giving out our annual awards! This year, KYEA honored three very important, committed people with awards.

Trey Morgan The Justin Cosco Scholarship Award was presented to Trey Morgan, 2011 KSYLF Alumni, who has demonstrated much progress toward his goals and huge growth in his attitude and disability pride.

Ranita Wilks The Mentoring Matters Award was presented to disability advocate, Ranita Wilks, who has served as a mentor for various KYEA programs and coordinates the Lawrence Disability Mentoring Day.

Traci Turner Lastly, the Spirit of Hope Award, in memory of John Peterson, was given to KYEA supporter and friend, Traci Turner, who volunteered for the KSYLF for nine years and continues to show unwavering commitment to Kansas youth with disabilities.
It's Back to School Time!!!
Spotlight On! 
A New School Year Begins For:
Morgan Strnad, McPherson College, McPherson


by Dezarae Marcotte, ICON Intern  

Get to know one Kansas youth who is starting her 5th year of college and is loving the experience!
Morgan Strnad gives a thumbs up to a McPherson College sign


Morgan Strnad is an alumni of KYEA's Kansas Youth Leadership Forum. She is a youth who is starting her 5th year of college at McPherson College. Morgan is majoring in graphic design and marketing, and her hope is to be working somewhere in the advertising department.

When Morgan was asked, "what are some things you ran into during the beginning years of college that you had to get past?" Her first answer was about friends and meeting new people. She mentioned that, before college, she had her parents and others there to get her to meet people or talk to others. College taught her that she has to do that on her own now. She also had to motivate herself to do basically everything else. From getting to class and doing the work, to getting to know others and being social, it was all up to her.

If Morgan could give any advice, she says, "don't be afraid to try new things." Morgan believes that college is about figuring out what your place is in the world. She says that the transition can be tough, but that students need to remember their morals and just be themselves. Morgan feels that this is the key to getting through the college transition!
There's An App For That! 
iPhone screen with apps We all love our iPhones and iPads right? Did you know that your mobile devices can actually help you in school? Check out these great apps that can help your school year be a success! 
iHomework is a student's best friend during the busy times of the school year. Keep up-to-date with your school work, grades, to-do's, teacher's information, and almost everything else you need during the school year.
Price- $1.99

iStudiez Pro
A bit more expensive, but a great app that can serve as a sophisticated planner!
Price- $2.99

iTunes U gives you access to complete courses from universities and other schools - plus the world's largest digital catalog of free education content. This is a great tool for high school and college students! 
Price- FREE

Provides a free English dictionary and thesaurus with over 2,000,000 definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. AND, you can access it even when not connected to the internet! 
Price- FREE

You've organized your homework, have course information, maps that show you the Earth, and photos of what you are seeking. Now you'll need to take notes. Evernote helps you record all your notes, either in the classic form or as photos. 
Price- FREE

Want to keep on top of your grades? This app is fully customizable and allows you to keep on top of assignments for all your courses and always know your current grades. 
Price- $0.99

The SAT is one of the most important tests in a high schooler's career. This app makes preparation easy and hassle-free, so you can keep your sights on test day. 
Price- FREE

Flashcards+ is a fast, fun, and free way to review your flashcards. Who needs paper notecards? Create & study flashcards without the hassle of writing them out by hand. 
Price- FREE
Those apps are great and all, but what about me as a student with a disability? Read on...

Apps and Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities   

Reading pen While the apps above may be very helpful for any student, there are lots of apps and assistive technology that can assist students with disabilities in school! From apps that read what is on the screen to a recorder for notes. From technology that will help you manage time to games that improve motor skills... there are so many helpful pieces of technology out there for students with disabilities. Click the link below for a full list of apps and assistive technology:

Want to try some of this hands on and talk with a specialist about it? Contact Assistive Technology for Kansans! They are the experts in this area and can tell you everything you need to know.

Learn more about ATK
View ATK offices in Kansas
News and Events


Opportunities in Kansas


- Attend the Kansas City Ability Expo on September 12! The expo will feature booths, educational sessions, adaptive sports, exercise demonstrations, and much more. The focus of the expo is to have a "one-stop" opportunity for persons with disabilities and their support system to gain information about valuable resources and products. Get the full details 


- Anti-bullying is such a huge topic for youth with disabilities that Families Together is dedicating a whole conference to this topic! The conference is geared towards helping parents and professionals recognize bullying and stop it. "Bullies, Bullied and Their Behaviors" will take place on September 12 in Wichita. Register today!  


- Do you know a youth who has an idea worth sharing and is an articulate speaker? Then, get them involved with TEDxYouth! TEDxYouth Kansas City is planning for their upcoming event in November. YOU can nominate a youth to speak or just attend this exciting event. Learn more about TEDxYouth 


- Do you have a child with a hearing disability? Would you like to meet other parents? Come have coffee and learn about a state-wide group for parents of youth with a hearing loss. The Kansas School for the Deaf is helping to facilitate these meetings across the state. Learn more 


- Do you know of a teacher or school faculty member who has done great things for students with disabilities? Then nominate them for a Council for Exceptional Children- Division on Career Development and Transition award! Awards are being given out in different areas related to transition. Think of that teacher who has really helped you and nominate them! Learn more



Opportunities on a National Level


- Travel to Oklahoma to experience a great conference for people with disabilities. The Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered conference will be held on October 9-12 in Oklahoma City... not far from Kansas! Attend this conference to learn about becoming a better self-advocate and encourage equality in your area. Read more
- Are you a person with autism who is looking for a national internship opportunity? Then this is for you! Freddie Mac and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network are teaming up to provide three paid internships in Washington, DC to students on the autism spectrum. Applicants should be interested in working in subject areas such as mathematics, statistics, economics, and computer science. Learn more

KYEA Updates

Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...


Fundraiser Garage Sale: Part 2 coming up in October! 


Garage sale with arrow pointing rightYou probably remember that KYEA had a fundraiser garage sale at the beginning of the summer. Well, we had lots of great items that we did not sell, so we are having another garage sale! Our next garage sale will take place on Saturday, October 4 in the parking lot of the KYEA office in Topeka (517 SW 37th St). Come on out, buy some good items, and support youth with disabilities at the same time!



KSYLF seeking alumni to help recruit applicants for 15th annual Forum 


Calling KSYLF Alumni Did you have an amazing experience as a delegate at the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum in the last 14 years? Do you want to help other youth have this same wonderful experience? Then help us recruit applicants for this year's KSYLF! We are looking for a select group of alumni in different areas of the state who are interested in being a part of our KSYLF Recruitment Team. These recruitment team members will do at least one presentation on the KSYLF, with assistance from KYEA, and will help spread the word about this great program in their city. Help us get more youth involved in the KSYLF! Contact Carrie at or 785-215-6655 for more information or to become a part of our recruitment team.  



SAVE THE DATE: Mentoring Matters Luncheon to be held in November      


Mentoring Matters logo with hand holding heart Save the date! KYEA will be holding a Mentoring Matters Luncheon on Monday, November 10 at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. We will be holding this event to introduce Mentoring Matters, a job-shadowing program for youth with disabilities, to the Shawnee County business community. If you are interested in attending this free luncheon, or have any questions, contact Johnna Godinez, VISTA Program Support, at or 785-215-6655.    


THANK YOU: Lowes and Valspar!


gold star KYEA would like to give a big thank you (and fist pump) to the Topeka Lowes store and Valspar for donating 20 gallons of Valspar Satin Ultra Paint and Primer. The donated paint was used for most of our office and the entire kitchen. We still have a few accent walls to paint, but our office is looking very fresh, bright, and professional! Carrie's parents painted our office (big thanks to them too!) and they both reported it was "really good paint."  Thanks again Brian Llamas, Assistant Manager of Lowes, for helping us out with the paint and for delivering it too!

Conversations: Stressful or Enjoyable... you decide!
A new school year has started. You dread going back to school because you don't know how to talk to people and you don't make friends easily. You just aren't sure how to talk to people. Does this sound like you? Believe it or not, conversations with others can actually be a bit fun. Whether you really struggle with communication or you are pretty good, but want some new tips, the article below can help!
"How to Start a Conversation When You Have Nothing to Talk About"

  from wikiHow--
  Two girls having a conversation and smiling
Starting a conversation to get to know someone or breaking an awkward silence can be very stressful. To start a conversation when you have nothing to talk about, use these guidelines.

Part 1 of 3: Finding Things to Talk About

1. Remark on the location or occasion. Look around and see if there is anything worth pointing out.

2. Ask an open-ended question. Most people love to talk about themselves; it's your place as the conversation starter to get them going. An open question requires an explanation for an answer rather than just a simple yes or no.

Part 2 of 3: Remembering the Basics

1. Let go of your fears. When you suddenly feel that you're not able to engage in conversation with another person, it's likely that you're telling yourself a few negative things, such as worrying that you're boring, not good enough, too unimportant, intruding, wasting their time, etc. This can leave you feeling tongue-tied.

2. Introduce yourself if necessary. If you don't know the person, breaking the ice is very simple: look approachable, tell the new person your name, offer your hand to shake, and smile.

Part 3 of 3: Keeping Things Interesting

1. Follow your partner's lead. If he or she appears interested, then continue. If he or she is looking at a clock or watch, or worse, looking for an escape strategy, then you've been going on for too long.

2. Use words of a sensory nature. These are words such as "see", "imagine", "feel", "tell", "sense", etc., which encourage the other person to keep painting a descriptive picture as part of their conversation.

Read the full article 

We give it a grade F!
What can you do to stop it?
The Fight Against Bullying: You can make an impact!  


by Dezarae Marcotte, ICON Intern


stop sign- Bullying stops here Bullying can be something small, but it can have such a big impact on other's lives. You never know what kind of an affect bullying can have on somebody. Everyone is different. It could be as little as taking someone's lunch money or calling somebody a name. These things make people vulnerable and self-conscious. Unfortunately, it happens too often. It is common and has happened for centuries. Luckily, there have been tips made for this very issue. Check out these tips from "Stop Bullying Now."

If you are being bullied...

Reach Out
Tell an adult. Sometimes you may have to tell more than one trusted adult.
Ask your friends to help you. There is safety in numbers.
Practice what to say the next time you're bullied with your parents, teachers or friends.

Be Cool in the Moment
Stay calm and confident. Don't show the bully that you're sad or mad.
Ignore the bully and walk away.
Remember: Fighting back can make bullying worse.

Change the School Community
Work with others to stop bully behavior; your whole school will benefit.
Remember: A lot of kids have to cope with bullying. You are not alone. No one deserves to be bullied.

If you witness bullying...

Interrupt It
Stand next to, or speak up for, the person being bullied.
Ask the bully to stop.
Comfort the person being bullied and offer friendship.

Get Help
Walk away and get help.
Find an adult who can intervene.

Continue reading 

Check out these anti-bullying resources on the web!
Question of the Month
What is your best advice for how to deal with bullies?

quotation mark
Give them the stink eye and don't say a thing. Don't allow your personal guard down. They, "the bully," are looking for any weaknesses they can work with.
- Elizabeth Plaster, KSYLF Alumna '09

I tend to ignore what the bullies have to say and trust the advice I am given from my closest friends and family.
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11

Stand up for yourself.
- Joseph Stroud, KSYLF Alumni '07

Tell an adult that the person is bullying you.
- Rochelle Kinney, KSYLF Alumna '05

Walk away.
- Corey Shelton, KSYLF Alumni '10

Build a healthy network of positive peers.
- Brian Gano, KSYLF Alumni '04

quotation mark

Always report harassment to a
trustworthy adult no matter what.
- Allison Wilkes, ICON Alumna
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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 October issue that will be all about Halloween and Disability Awareness Month!
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 to you, please call us at 785-215-6655 so we can make the change for next time.

Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy