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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #28
October 2014
in this issue
:: Behind Julia's Glasses
:: Happy Halloween from KYEA
:: Meet our new ICON
:: Disability Employment Awareness Month
:: Spotlight On: Youth With a Rare Disability
:: Becoming My True Self
:: State and National Opportunities
:: Youth Ability of the Month: Cartoon from Josh Edwards
:: KYEA Updates
:: A Glimpse at the Past: Photos from History
:: Local Schools Embrace Disability Awareness
:: It's On the Web!

trick or treat bucket Happy Disability Employment Awareness Month AND Happy Halloween! There are two very important things going on this month, so we decided to focus on both for this issue. Read on and you will see that we have a dash of Halloween themed stories here, some employment articles there, and a pinch of disability awareness resources there. It's all in one issue!

We have a new youth intern in our office... meet him below! As always, we have lots of KYEA updates to share. There are many things going on with our programs right now, so find out how you can get involved. Oh yes, and this month, we feature a cartoon made by one of our KSYLF alumni. We find it awesome how many unique skills and abilities that our youth have! Let us know if you have a story, piece of artwork, cartoon, etc, that you would like to share!

There is lots to read in this newsletter. So, sit back, drink your cider, eat your Halloween treats, and enjoy our October issue!

- 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.


Have you ever noticed that, as the weather gets cooler, there seems to be more to celebrate?  Some of the more popular celebrations are Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Some of the nationally recognized days in October alone include:
  • Custodial Workers Day
  • Do Something Nice Day
  • German-American Day
  • Stop Bullying Day
  • Coming Out Day
  • Farmers Day
  • Free Thought Day
  • Kick Butt Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Grouch Day
  • Boss's Day (one of my favorites)
  • Disability Mentoring Day
  • Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • Pizza Month
  • And the list goes on...
Personally, as someone who confronts depression and anxiety on a daily basis, finding something other than work to get me out of bed each morning can be extremely difficult.  Sometimes, the act of leaving my house is a celebration in itself!!  Have any of you experienced these same feelings?  But how amazing is it that there is a national calendar that suggests I celebrate and party about something every day!!!  I don't even have to think about what I should celebrate, for each day has already been designated for us!  For those of you who are on the depression and anxiety journey with me or who just need a little lift now and again, check out the website:

And party like a rock star! 
Happy Halloween From KYEA! 
It's a rare occurance when you will find every KYEA staff member in the office. Last week, though, a potato bar potluck and staff meeting brought staff members together for a full day. That's when we snapped this photo, complete with our very own office pumpkin!


KYEA staff pose for a group photo with a pumpkin in front of them that says KYEA
(l-r) Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator; Julia Thomas, Executive Director; Patrick Dahlman, ICON Youth Intern; Kelsey Boss, Washburn Intern; Johnna Godinez, VISTA Program Support; Jennifer Rozean, Administrative Assistant
Patrick Dahlman
Meet our new ICON!
We have a new youth intern in the KYEA office! Learn all about him below...


Patrick Dahlman 


Age: 21 


Education: Certified Nurses Aid, five semesters at Washburn University


Disability: Cerebral Palsy, Major Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disability 


Favorite thing about being an ICON:  

That I can work by myself. Sometimes I tend to get things done quicker. 


Favorite hobbies: Music- I play guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, violin, and I sing. I also enjoy comic books. My favorite super hero is Superman. I enjoy fishing with my best friend over the summer.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Celebrated in October!

by Dezarae Marcotte, ICON Alumna
Poster for NDEAM showing female employee in a wheelchair- Expect. Employ. Empower.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The year 1945 was when the idea started. It was originally called "National Employ for the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1988 it was changed to "National Disability Employment Awareness Month" (NDEAM). In 2001 the Office of Disability Employment Policy took responsibility of NDEAM and has worked annually to raise awareness of the campaign.

As a person with a disability, it can be quite challenging to get a job. This year, the campaign is called "Expect. Employ. Empower." Oftentimes, it may seem like the world wasn't really made for people with disabilities. In a lot of areas, people with disabilities feel like they don't fit in. Remember, if you think about it, we may have the advantage here! While some employers may not make their businesses accommodation-friendly, we have the right to break that cycle, stand up tall and proud, and tell our employers what we need! Don't settle for being told "no." Take charge and go after whatever job or career you desire. If there is a will, there is a way!

For Disability Employment Awareness Month, some businesses celebrate, maybe with a breakfast or a luncheon. October is also usually the month the Disability Mentoring Day is held. We have 14 active DMD's right here in Kansas. There are also plenty of ideas, posters, events, etc. to raise awareness. See link below.

I know it may be scary... trust me, I know. But we, as people with disabilities, have the opportunity to get out there and be employed. We should be working and contributing to the community. This may not be easy and there might be some advocacy involved. The world may set limits, but through decades of people working for our freedom and disability rights, we can advocate for ourselves and others.

Employment is possible for people with disabilities! 
Just check out this PSA to see real people who have real jobs that they love.  
Screenshot of a video with a man on the screen. The caption tells us that the man is an actor.
Spotlight On! 
Youth With a Rare Disability:
Jenny Ray McGee, Kansas City


by Dezarae Marcotte, ICON Alumna   

Are you ever afraid of the unknown? Most people are! For one youth, this fear is something that she has to deal with on a daily basis... knowing that she has a disability, but not having a name for it. Read on for the full story of one youth who pushed past a rare and unpredictable situation to become her own advocate and cheerleader.

Jenny Ray McGee Jenny Ray McGee was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but now resides in Lawrence. Jenny Ray is a 25 year old woman who just wants to live a normal happy life. While talking with her, I quickly sensed her upbeat, very friendly attitude.  She was patient and totally open to talk about all that she's dealt with her whole life. Jenny Ray is into writing, music, and a major Jayhawk fan.

Since birth, her health has been a constant battle. Just days after being in the world, Jenny Ray wasn't able to eat or drink anything.  This continued for the first nine years of her life. Throughout her childhood, she faced several other health battles. She wasn't able to walk until she was in the 6th grade. Slowly but surely, this determined woman trained herself and her body to do it. She taught herself while her doctors remained clueless as to why she was experiencing all these problems. Over the years, she was in and out of a wheelchair, poked and prodded, only to be misdiagnosed over and over. Jenny Ray juggled the hardships between the medical world and the world that teenage girls grew up in. It seemed like, in both worlds, there just wasn't a place for her. This can be a scary spot for a young teenage girl.

While these struggles may have given plenty of people reason to throw in the towel, not Jenny Ray. She has been to many different doctors from all across the country and none of them are able to figure out a true diagnosis for Jenny Ray's disability. This has not stopped Jenny Ray at all! She has spent 25 years learning her body and how to advocate for it. She has paid attention to herself and what makes her body tick. While searching for answers, Jenny Ray is taking the strides she needs to live as independently as possible.  She sets goals for herself, and, if there's something she can't do, she'll think of a way to get it done. Jenny Ray is a prime example of somebody living a stable life in an instable world. She has no idea what each day will make of itself, and, even though it may be scary, she still faces those fears. Jenny Ray was asked, "What advice would you give somebody in a similar situation?" She replied, "Remember, you are not alone. Even when you feel like you are, you're not. Find what makes you happy and use that to your advantage."

"Becoming My True Self"
Halloween is all about costumes, candy, scary movies, and masks. Did you know that, in real life, we sometimes put on our own mask covering up who we really are? This is exactly what one local youth did, until he learned the power of getting involved and becoming a leader!


by Dallas Hathaway, Youth Advocate 

Dallas Hathaway "As an adolescent, I remember being uninvolved a majority of the time. I enjoyed talking with others, but I didn't get out or join many activities. I found it difficult to stay involved and succeed academically. In high school, I discovered how to display my true self. I overcame the challenge I faced as a disabled individual by removing the 'mask' I wore for many years. If other students could be involved and keep their grades up, then why couldn't I do the same? I aspired to become a leader and wished to help others get involved as well.

Over time, I took part in many campus and community activities. The 'removal of my mask' happened as I participated in these opportunities which included Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America. I had trouble maintaining a balance between education and activities, but as time went on, the experiences became unforgettable and my grades undoubtedly improved. Throughout these experiences I learned how to become more comfortable with myself. Although it was difficult at times, becoming the real me was the most rewarding experience of my life.

As you prepare to dress up for Halloween, remember that taking off your mask can open the door to many possibilities. One thing I realized I had to do while participating was to focus on one thing at a time. You might not get it right the first time, but never give up! I would encourage you to try many things to find out what you enjoy. Also, remember to have fun!  Although taking your mask off can be scary, it is an important element in understanding the full potential of your true self."
News and Events


Opportunities in Kansas


- Learn how to shape a healthy future for youth with disabilities! Families Together is hosting an upcoming Team Empowerment Conference that will focus on health related topics for youth with disabilities. "Shaping a Healthy Future" will be on December 6 in Wichita and is open to parents, healthcare professionals, school personnel, and youth with disabilities. Register today! 


- 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.


- Is Kansas City a difficult or easy place to live for people with disabilities? Have a comment on this? Share your thoughts about accessibility in the Kansas City area in this survey conducted by KCPT! Fill out the survey   


- Want to hear some fantastic, skilled youth speakers? Attend the upcoming TEDxYouth KC event called "Beyond Truth." TEDxYouth speakers and performers will be sharing new ideas that will be beyond your expectations! This event is open to the public and will be held on November 15 in Kansas City. Learn more       


Opportunities on a National Level


- There are awesome things going on with youth with disabilities on a national level! While KYEA was not able to attend the APRIL Conference this year, 67 youth from all over the U.S. gathered to attend the annual Youth Conference in New Mexico. Congrats to APRIL! Check out photos from the conference 


- New Resource: Guiding Your Success Tool. Check out this great new resource that helps youth plan for their future and transition successfully!


- What would you do if you had a trillion dollars? Answer this question in the form of a video, and you could win a film festival! The If I Had A Trillion Dollars Youth Film Festival is asking youth ages 23 years old and younger, "If YOU had the power to choose, how would you spend 1 trillion dollars?" Think about your priorities, create a 3 minute video, and submit it by February 1, 2015! Learn more 


- The RRTC wants to hear from people with physical disabilities about their experiences in employment. They are currently forming focus groups that will meet by phone to give feedback on success and advancement in employment. This group is especially looking for youth between the ages of 18 and 24 to participate! To learn more, contact Grant Revell at  


- SCHOLARSHIP: Students can now apply for the 2014-15 AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability. The scholarship is awarded each year to a student with a disability who is pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies in areas related to health and disability. Learn more   

Youth Ability of the Month  

Celebrating the unique talents of our youth across the state!
Small version of Josh's cartoon
Cartoon by Josh Edwards, KSYLF Alumni 2010 and Recruitment Team Member
Click the cartoon above to see it up close

Did You Know? 

long road with an empowerment fist next to itKansas has a disability awareness and history law that encourages schools to teach disability education!
In 2009, KYEA youth, staff, and supporters advocated for the passage of a Disability Awareness and History Bill. We now have this law in Kansas that encourages schools to teach these very important topics to their students at some point in the school year. The schools listed to the right are just a few examples of places that are implementing this law. What is YOUR school doing? Let us know if we can help you incorporate disability awareness and history into your school year!
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 December issue focused on the holidays and giving!
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

KYEA Updates

Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...


Mentoring Matters Invites Businesses and Educators to Free Luncheon  

Mentoring Matters logo- hand holding a heart and name Mentoring Matters KYEA will be hosting our Mentoring Matters Luncheon on Monday, November 10 at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Avenue, from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. Our new Mentoring Matters program focuses on employment and hands-on career development for youth with disabilities, ages 13-25, who live in Shawnee County. If you would like to attend this free luncheon, and you are a business-person or educator interested in learning about this new mentoring program, please RSVP today! Contact Johnna Godinez, KYEA VISTA, by Thursday, November 6 at or 785-215-6655 to ensure that your free boxed lunch is reserved!



KYEA to Host Weekend Workshop on Employment Success in Kansas City 

Now Hiring logo Do you want to get a job and a paycheck someday? Are you not sure that you can work as a young person with disability? Well, we are here to show you that you can! KYEA is partnering with the Coalition for Independence to host a one-day weekend workshop called "Now Hiring." The "Now Hiring" workshop is part of our new Empower Me! Series that we will be taking across the state. Our first stop... Kansas City!

The "Now Hiring" workshop will take place on Saturday, November 22 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It will be held at the Coalition for Independence in Kansas City. This workshop is open to youth with disabilities, ages 14-24, who live in the Kansas City (and surrounding) area and are Kansas residents.

Come and spend a day with KYEA staff and your peers and learn all about how to be successful in employment! Hear from speakers, participate in group discussions, meet other youth with disabilities, and enjoy hands on activities, food, prizes, and more. KYEA will give you the tools to reach your job goals.

This workshop is free. To attend, you must fill out a registration form. Registrations are due by November 7, 2014.

Register today!
KSYLF Seeking Delegates and Volunteers for 2015
KSYLF logo with dove It's that time again! KYEA is currently searching for potential youth leaders to attend our 15th 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 2015 KSYLF will be held July 13-18 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, 2014
  • have demonstrated leadership potential in school and the community
Interested students must fill out an application that will be reviewed through a competitive selection process. The application deadline for the 2015 forum is December 15, 2014.

Calling all former and potentially new volunteers! We are also now accepting applications for volunteers for our 2015 KSYLF. We are searching for committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program. Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate youth with disabilities? Then consider serving as a volunteer at this year's KSYLF.

Past volunteers, KSYLF alumni, and new volunteers are encouraged to apply! Volunteer applicants must fill out our application form, as well as two background checks, and send to the KYEA office by February 5, 2015.
Get Great Deals at Local Restaurants: Give Back to KYEA!
Do you like to eat out and have fun? Would you like a little discount from places in your town? KYEA is currently selling discount cards as a fundraiser. The cards are good in Topeka, Lawrence, or Wichita (must specify which one) and include discounts to restaurants and a few other businesses. Each card is $20.00, and a portion of all proceeds come to KYEA. Interested in purchasing a card? Just call us up at 785-215-6655.

Thank You to Nexlynx!!
thank you There are some businesses who have truly supported KYEA over the years. One of those businesses is Nexlynx, located in Topeka. Nexlynx specializes in reliable and professional local IT support and has helped us with our computers a million times over the years. Not only that, but the owner, Lee, has also served as a mentor multiple times for our various programs. Nexlynx even received our Mentoring Matters Award in 2013. Recently, Nexlynx went above and beyond by offering to completely donate our website and email hosting. We were blown away by this offer. It is because of businesses like Nexlynx that we are able to continue empowering the youth of our state. Thank you Lee and everyone at Nexlynx!!

Learn more about Nexlynx
A Glimpse at the Past:
Looking back at horrible conditions in disability history
These photos may be scary, but don't look away. We need to know where we came from. Every picture below is from real life. You think horror movies are scary... how would you like to live in conditions like this? Look below for a visual glimpse at just how far we have come since the early days of discrimination against people with disabilities.
*Most photos obtained through the Disability History Museum- 
Years and years ago, people with mental health disabilities used to be restrained by chains, shackles, and straps in asylums. 
Black and white photo of people's legs being shackled and chained down to a board 
You've probably heard of the Holocaust. Did you know that 200,000 to 250,000 people with disabilities were killed during the Holocaust? Many of them were sent to gas chambers like the one below.  
Black and white photo of a dark, large room that looks like a dungeon 
Long ago, people with disabilities were put into institutions and hospitals just because of their disability. In these institutions, they were often beaten with a rubber hose. 
Black and white photo of a rubber hose laying on a table
People with disabilities were often forced to beg for money because no one believed that they could have a job. Many people who were deaf sold cards like the one below just to get money. This created a sense of feeling sorry for those with disabilities.  
Card that says- Hello! I am deaf. I am selling this card for a living. Pay what you wish. Thank you very much. 
Many years ago, people with disabilities were put into cages. The public saw them as animals and as something that needed to be locked away from society.
Black and white photo of a human sized cage
As stated above, many people with disabilities lived in institutions. The conditions in these institutions were horrible, unclean, cold, and very crowded. This room below even has exposed walls and ceilings right above the person's bed.
Black and white photo of an old bed in a run down room with a ceiling that is coming apart
Ending on a good note... this photo may look a little scary, but it's really advocacy at its strongest! Before the ADA was passed, people with mobility disabilities couldn't get into the Capital building in Washington. In order to shock people and move them to action, people with disabilities got out of their wheelchairs and started climbing up the steps to the Capital in order to show the importance of accessibility. 
Black and white photo of various people climbing up the steps of a Capital building  
*Photo by Tom Olin
Local Schools Embrace Disability Awareness!  
Youth with various disabilities hang out and pose for photo with their arms around each other While October is Disability EMPLOYMENT Awareness Month, many schools across the state use this month to celebrate disability awareness in general. We applaud any school that is making disability history and awareness a priority for their students. Check out how these schools and universities below are promoting disability awareness to their students!
  • The University of Kansas AbleHawks and Allies group recently hosted a special viewing of the film "Lives Worth Living." This film gave attendees a glimpse into the fight for disability rights. The viewing was followed by a presentation from our very own KYEA board member, Rosie Cooper! What a great way to celebrate disability awareness and history!
  • Towanda Elementary is collaborating with the Resource Center for Independent Living to share disability awareness with their students in November! RCIL staff will visit the school and arrange various disability awareness stations for the students to learn about different disabilities and accommodations. Way to go Towanda and RCIL!
  • Tonganoxie Elementary is bringing KYEA in for a presentation on disability awareness next month! KYEA will share with a few classes of elementary students about how to interact with their peers who have disabilities and how to respect all people. Thanks for inviting us Tonganoxie! We are excited to meet your students!
  • Kansas State University annually hosts a K-State for All diversity awareness week on campus. This week, generally held in the Spring, includes events, speakers, and interactive activities that educate the students about the abilities of people with disabilities. Kuddos to K-State for dedicating a whole week to diversity!
  • Many high schools across the state supported Disability Mentoring Day by bringing their students to local events. Hundreds of students were able to experience job shadowing, employment fairs, and more through these events. Learn more about Disability Mentoring Day in Kansas
How is your school celebrating disability awareness?
We want to know what schools across the state are doing to educate their students on this topic. Tell us what your school is doing, and we might feature you in future issues of our newsletter!

It's On the Web!

Resources for Teaching Disability History and Awareness in Schools
Happy Halloween with pumpkin