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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #52
May 2020
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: KYEA Has a New Home!
:: It's KSYLF Reunion Time: We Are Going Virtual!
:: Madonna's Corner
:: KYEA Staff Speak Out on Change
:: Spotlight On: Kirstianna Guerrero
:: Creative Ways to Stay Busy at Home
:: Fun Websites to Check Out
:: Finding the Good During This Time of Change
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA News
:: Question of the Month
:: What Does This Word Mean?
:: Balancing Life: Time Management
:: Having Good Mental Health
:: Community Power: KS Council on Developmental Disabilities

A lit up colorful sign that says Time for Change
How are you all doing??? Wow, we feel like so much has happened in our world and in our lives since we last put out a newsletter. So, first, we hope that all of you are staying healthy and happy! We are living in a very strange time right now, and it is definitely an adjustment for everyone.

Which brings me to the topic for this newsletter... CHANGE! Obviously, when preparing for this issue, it only seemed natural that we had to at least touch on the topic of the pandemic going on in our world. But, who wants to read a whole newsletter about a virus, right? The bigger theme, I think, that we are thinking more about these days is dealing with change. This virus has brought so many changes, AND, not only that, but there are a lot of changes going on in our KYEA world and in the lives of our staff. So, this issue is all about dealing with change, whether that be related to the current pandemic happening or just other situations in our lives. You might like change; you might hate it. But, the bottom line is, it happens. So, how do you deal and how do you move forward? Read on to find out...

As I said, a lot has been changing for KYEA as well. The biggest news... we have moved our office in Topeka!! Check out pictures and details below. We also have had many changes to our programs due to COVID-19. But, we also have some exciting news! It's all below, along with news, opportunities, and many resources.

Enjoy this newsletter, and please, take care of yourself! We hope to see you all soon!

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

Have any of you felt like your life the past 2 months could be the story line for a new thriller movie?  People wearing masks and face shields; you can't get what you need from the grocery store; businesses are inaccessible; keeping 6 feet apart from each other; not being able to attend events consisting of large crowds... and the list goes on.  Wait a minute, this is my life on a regular basis as a person with a disability and chronic health condition!  Can anyone else relate? 

Disabled or not, we can all agree that, for the last 2 months, our lives have been full of changes (by the way, another word for changes is transitions).  In addition to the current pandemic, I was dumped by someone I was in love with, the health of my parents is declining, the KYEA office is re-locating after a billion years... blah, blah, blah. If you know me well, though, you know that I try to see the good in things.  While I have been experiencing some tough changes in my life, there have also been changes that I am thankful for.  I was truly in love for the first time since my divorce, my parents got to see another birthday, I am one year older, KYEA is moving into a great new office space with a supportive landlord, and I signed up to be a foster fur parent to a kitten and now have transitioned to the kitten's adoptive parent.

No matter if you perceive your change to be good or bad, change stirs up a ton of emotions- frustration, fear, joy, devastation, happiness, and so much more.  Don't be ashamed of the way you feel.  It is perfectly okay to feel the way you do.  What I try to remember, as I go through daily changes, is that I am not alone, even when it feels like I am.  Everyone on this planet is going through changes and feeling all kinds of emotions.  Most importantly, I know that I have a support team that listens to my pain and cheers for my happiness.  What about you?  Yeah, YOU.  Do you have the support system (friends, family, medical professionals, etc.) that you need?  If the answer is no, then contact anyone on the KYEA staff and allow us to work together with you to build your team one person at a time!
KYEA's Biggest Change...
KYEA Office Moved to New Location in Topeka 
KYEA has a new home! We recently moved our offices to a new location in Topeka. While we were sad to leave our current office behind, we are excited to have a new home that will have more offices, more space, upgraded accessibility, and a whole new look. KYEA has been in its current location for a total of about 17 years. While we moved to the downtown YWCA from 2008 to 2010, we returned to our original home in 2010 and have been there ever since. Our office on 37th Street has so many memories attached to it. We have grown as an organization and as people while working in this office. It is hard to leave, but we are also excited about having a new location where we can make new memories! Our offices were officially moved this past Tuesday, May 26, but things are kind of in disarray right now as we are putting flooring in and other modifications. Please note that we will not have phone service until June 3 or after. If you need to get a hold of us, feel free to email Since we can't really do an Open House in person right now, we are exploring a virtual tour and may have that available in the future. For now, check out a couple of preview photos below. The new KYEA home is located at:

2220 SE 29th St., Suite B
Topeka, KS 66605

A moving van outside from Mastery Movers
The front door of a building that it white and the building is brick
A view inside our new office from the front door with a front desk and gray walls
Another view of our new office in the hallway with lots of offices and gray walls
Guess What?? It's Reunion Time!!
We are going VIRTUAL! 

Exciting news Did you all know that this year is our 20th anniversary of the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum? I know... we can't believe that it has been 20 years either! While we can't actually have a KSYLF this year, we are still considering it our 20th anniversary. We have been wanting to have a reunion of alumni for awhile now, and we know that many of our alumni have as well. So, we are granting their wish... and we are doing it VIRTUALLY!

With the COVID-19 pandemic happening in our country, KYEA has had to change up how we serve our youth and alumni. We have really had to explore conducting programs online, and we thought that a KSYLF reunion might be the best opportunity to try out this whole online meeting platform. Also, it will allow more alumni to attend as they will not have to travel... doing it virtually means that alumni can be a part of this reunion from the comfort of their own home! While we realize that it won't be the same as seeing everyone in person, this does allow us to finally have a reunion and bring all of our alumni and past volunteers together. We are just starting the planning for this reunion, so no dates have been set, but we do know that there will be learning, catching up, and plenty of opportunities for alumni from the past 19 years (as well as volunteers!) to chat about a wide variety of topics. So, stay tuned for more details as they become available! We will post updates on our social media, on our website, and in future issues of this newsletter.
Madonna- a fluffy white poodle wearing a pink and purple bow
Madonna's Corner!

Our therapeutic manager shares the big change in her life!     
Madonna is experiencing a big change in her household... and she's not quite sure how she feels about it. Read on to learn about the new addition in the Connellis home!   
Psst... I have a secret.  I have recently become a dog big sister, and I am not sure if I like it or not.*bites the pillow beside her and growels* Her name was Orchid, but mom now calls her Clarity.  We have nothing in common!  I love humans; she hides from them.  I like to play and potty outside, and she likes to do her business in a box and run around the dog house.  My hair is white and curly and hers is straight and brown.  I listen to mommy, but she doesn't and gets loved on anyway!  I do not like going into human bathrooms... gross! But, she loves to swat the shower curtain and scare mommy while mommy is standing under the water.  I have a job and work hard to make people smile every day.  Clarity just stays home, licks herself, and sleeps.  Grrr... she is SO frustrating!  Mommy doesn't see it when Clarity teases me, and I have no choice but to play with her. *excited whine* We like to swap toys. I chew on her mouse and she swats around my squeaky toy.  I wuv (love) getting my belly rubbed, and I know she thinks it is purrfect to get hers rubbed too. Psst... I kind of like my lil kitty sister.  Don't tell mommy though.  I don't want her bringing home another one! Any more siblings, and I will have to start chewing my tail from being so anxious about so many changes.  And, just to remind you, my nub is way too cute to chew. *sticks her tail straight up for all to see*

Have a wag-u-lous (fabulous) day!
KYEA Staff Speak Out !
Johnna and Carrie share their thoughts on the concept of change 
We miss you all!! And we thought you might miss us to, haha! So, we thought that, for this issue, and others in the future, we would record some video messages on various topics. For this issue, of course, our staff share their thoughts on change, how you deal with it, and the positive that can come from it. Click the videos below to hear from Carrie and Johnna!    
Carrie looking into a screen

Johnna waving into a screen
Spotlight On!
Embracing Change and Thriving in a "New Normal"  
Kirstianna Guerrero, Topeka 

Kirstianna wearing crown and sash standing in front of the State Capital building holding a proclamation

With the COVID-19 pandemic happening in our country, many youth have slowed down and are spending much more time at home... but not Kirstianna Guerrero! Kirstianna is doing more than ever and is finding ways to still interact with and encourage people around her. Not only that, but she has a new title behind her name! Read on to learn how Kirstianna is thriving in life right now...   
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni  
The last few months have been undoubtedly challenging for all of us. For some, it has meant that we have needed to stay inside or practice social distancing while in public. For others, our "new normal" has challenged us to bring out the best in our abilities.

Kirstianna Guerrero, a 2018 KSYLF Alumni, is going above and beyond to stay involved with activities and helping others during these trying times. Kirstianna has lived experiences with Anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Epilepsy, and is Hard of Hearing. She was recently selected as the 2020 "Kansas Miss Amazing Teen."

At the beginning of the outbreak, she didn't feel like a lot had changed. However, she did notice changes during her free time.  

"I enjoyed finding the spotlight and the need for making intentional connections," Guerrero said. "I had to find ways to connect with others and spend time with them."  

As "Miss Amazing Teen," she is a representative and role model for females with disabilities. She has continued to stay active at her local church. She recently made a video for her church youth group. Additionally, she painted a banner for the drive-up service held during the safe-at-home order. She also manages The Beautiful Project on Facebook. The project is "designed to be a community of people supporting each other, encouraging others, and finding their beauty."  Click here to visit "The Beautiful Project." You can follow Kirstianna's year as Miss Amazing Teen by visiting her Facebook page.

Kirstianna has also kept busy with her job at the church daycare center. She is a chef at the daycare and works with children ages one to five. She told me that the daycare capacity has been cut by about 50% during the pandemic. She described the need to get creative with cooking due to product shortages at the grocery stores.

"I enjoy trying new recipes," she said.  

In the end, Kirstianna says that change can be difficult for her. However, she talked about how she was able to process the changes and move forward without letting it be a roadblock.

"I would encourage everyone to realize things are not the same," she said. "Look for new ways to lead and impact others in a positive way."  

I want to thank Kirstianna for taking time to share her story with me. If we can all replicate her kind and positive spirit, we will get through these challenging times.    
So you have to stay at home...
Creative ways to stay busy when you can't go out in the community 
by Johnna Godinez, KYEA Program Assistant 
Wow, it's such a big change to be spending more time at home due to the pandemic crisis. Let's all stay safe, but why not have some fun too? Below are some ideas of some fun things to do at home. Do note that most of these ideas require us to sit-down, breathe, and not have a piece of technology in our hands. That is right, taking it back to the old school days when I grew up.    

A plate with silverware Idea #1: Recently I made homemade pizza with from-scratch sauce. It was so good, fresh, and I remember how much I love to work with bread dough. Some other ideas for the kitchen - make slime, have a milkshake, hot chocolate, grilled cheese, or pizza-making contest, make some fresh lemonade, learn how to grill a pizza crust, hot dog, or hamburger, bake some bread, learn how to make a really good pizza or pasta sauce, or make homemade ice cream.

A journal or sketchbook Idea #2: I always make time for leadership practices in my life. How about, make a new vision board, write a new goal, decide on a new good habit and do it, read a book or subscribe to a podcast on leadership, take a free leadership Internet course from the Kansas Leadership Center, volunteer around your neighborhood using social-distancing practices, and help an elderly neighbor by making them a card, mowing their lawn, weeding their garden, or calling them on the phone to check-in.

A laptop Idea #3: Okay, I surrender, here are some tech based ideas - Have lunch with friends on Zoom or on other conferencing platforms, play games with your family/friends, create your own blog, learn a new skill or hobby from YouTube, take photos of nature and post them, watch videos, explore Reddit, or attend an Internet concert. (see below for more technology ideas!)

A bonfire Idea #4: The great outdoors holds a lot of promise for fun. So, slow down and watch a sunset, sunrise, the clouds, stargaze, and find the constellations, or watch a thunderstorm. As a youth, I went camping or pick-nicking in the backyard. You could also take a walk or grow vegetables or flowers.    

Colored pencils Idea #5: Let's be creative! Do some watercolor painting, draw a picture of your pet, create sidewalk chalk drawings, tye-dye an old t-shirt, create a tote bag from an old t-shirt or jeans, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, design your dream home, create cards to send to front-line workers, first-responders, and medical workers, create artwork and give a virtual art show.   
Idea #6: Write something... a novel, a poem, a thank you card, a long letter, a to-do list, a grocery list of typical items purchased weekly which are saved to your phone or computer and printer off for each shopping trip, or update your resume.

Books in a packing box Idea #7: Good organization is one of my personal strategies to reducing stress. I suggest going through your home and creating a donation pile for items (clothing, shoes, kitchen items, sheets and towels) that you do not use anymore, make a daily list of tasks you need to work on, reorganize your closet, kitchen, or garage for safety and better function. Explore using a new appointment or organizational phone app to manage your time.
Check out these really cool websites! 
Computer mouse So, Johnna mentioned technology above. Technology is a great option to turn to when you are bored or even when you're not bored. There are so many fun websites out there! From playing games with your friends online to creating a masterpiece drawing, there is something for everyone! Here are just a few interesting websites that we recently discovered...

Play games with your friends anywhere in the world! There are a ton of different options that are a lot of fun.

Create your own games from a simple Google spreadsheet! You can create your own word search, flash cards, quiz show, scavenger hunt, and more.

A new way to communicate and chat with your friends! This website is often used to connect video game lovers.

Do you like to make music? Then this site is for you! You can even change the type of instrument used, the tempo, and more.

If you love animals and nature, check this out! You can watch actual live cams of animals in different aquariums and parks across the world.

Want to learn some magic? This site will give you all the details to make yourself a magician.

This one is for the artists out there or just people who love words! This site allows you to take a bunch of words and put them into a "word cloud." Make a masterpiece just with words!

Another great one for the artists out there! This is exactly what it says... a sketch pad. Draw whatever you want with different brushes, patterns, colors, and more!

You've probably heard of YouTube already, but have you really searched the site? There are so many videos that you can find practically anythingg on YouTube. Watch a movie, sing along with music videos, learn a new skill, hear amazing speeches, and so much more!

And if that's not enough... read through this awesome handout geared toward teens for even more ideas!

Finding the Good During This Time of Change in our World  

by Carrie Greenwood, KYEA Program Coordinator

A person holding a sign that says Think Positive With all change, there is probably some bad and some good attached to it. Of course, you have to adjust to the change. You have to adapt to a new way of doing things. You might even have to change yourself a bit. Oftentimes, we instantly see the bad in change and in transition. But, there is also good in it as well... you might just have to look harder to find it. Or, maybe you are the kind of person who loves change. In that case, you frequently see the good that comes from it.

With all of the recent changes that have been happening across the world related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we might be really frustrated. On the surface, these changes like staying away from other people, staying in our homes, not being able to go to restaurants or attend events, having to do school at home, etc, seem really crappy to be honest. You might be getting to the point where you just want things to go back to normal. I think we've probably all thought that once or twice in these last few months. But, can any good come from what we are experiencing right now? Yes. I most definitely think that good things can, and have, come from it. Here are just a few examples:

1. One of the biggest things that I think we have learned from the last few months is to appreciate what we have... to not take things for granted. Did you really appreciate the sunshine and fresh air as much as you do now? Did you realize how cool it actually was to go to school each day and hang out with your friends? Even the small things mean more like hugs, sharing food with other people, a handshake, and much more. I mean, let's be honest, I think we even appreciate toilet paper a little bit more now :).

2. Another good that has come from this is being able to spend more time with those people that you live with. By now, you might be sick of them, but, I bet these last two months have helped you to get to know your family even more. It might have allowed you to slow down and spend an extra minute or two with the people that you love. This is definitely a positive thing!

3. Speaking of slowing down... this virus has really given all of us the chance to breathe and practice more self-care. Without having school or work to go to each day, many people have been able to get some much needed rest, catch up on things that they have put off, and just enjoy their hobbies like reading, watching movies, doing crafts, playing sports outdoors, taking a walk, etc.

4. Lastly, I think, and I hope, that this huge change in our world has caused many of us to think more about the well-being of those around us. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, we should now know that what we do affects those around us. While this virus may not have much of an effect on one person; it could kill another person who has medical conditions or a low immune system. In order to not hurt another person, we have to do things ourselves like wear a mask in public, stay away from loved ones for awhile, or maybe miss a week of work. These are sacrifices, but they can truly save a person's life. So, hopefully, this pandemic has made all of us a little less selfish.

I could list more because there really are other positives that have come from this strange time in history. But, I now encourage you to come up with your own. What positive things have happened in your life BECAUSE OF the changes that have happened in the last few months? You might be able to list more than you would imagine...
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The KU Center on Developmental Disabilities wants to hear from family members of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities. They are conducting a survey to learn about your experiences receiving the support that you need during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will then help the Center to inform providers and policymakers.
- Are you a parent who wants to learn more about how to talk with your youth with a disability about sexuality? One of our alumni's parents is conducting a six-week educational support group for parents and caregivers that will be held digitally. She will provide tips to help prepare your children for puberty and help you talk with them about sexuality. For more information and a listing of dates, call 913-346-7262 or email  
Opportunities on a National Level

- The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference is going virtual! This is an exciting, informative national conference that brings together people with disabilities and other advocates from across the U.S. Since it is virtual this year, this is your chance to participate and not have to travel anywhere! The conference will be July 20 - August 7, 2020. Learn more

- Mental health is very important for young adults. The Glowmedia Project understands this and creates videos that tackle important issues facing teens today. They have free videos and resources on having bipolar disability, eating disorders, sexual orientation, and more. Learn more

- Would you like to have your voice heard on a youth committee for young adults with health conditions? The Association of Maternal and Child Health is wanting to create a new committee led by youth and young adult leaders that will report to and provide feedback to their larger Board of Directors. They need your help to create this committee from the ground up. If this sounds interesting, then fill out a survey that they have to show your interest. Fill out the survey

- The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is announcing their POWER the Disability Vote, a national, non-partisan Disability & Election Virtual Summit. This Summit will occur on June 22 and 23 from 11:00 am to 2:45 pm CST. It will include panels, presentations, and a national call-to-action to mobilize disability voters and allies. If you believe in the importance of voting, then this Summit is for you. Learn more

- Have you watched the documentary called Crip Camp yet? If not, check it out! There is also a virtual experience related to this going on in the coming months. The Crip Camp Impact Campaign is proud to announce the Official Virtual Experience! They are inviting all grassroots activists and advocates to join them this summer for a virtual camp experience featuring trailblazing speakers from the disability community. All are welcome, you do not need any activism experience to participate. Learn more
Donate to KYEA!
Do you believe in the KYEA mission of empowering and supporting youth with disabilities in our state? Consider making a donation! We appreciate any and all support to help us keep changing lives!
(just click on the DONATE button)
And some other changes...
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KYEA Adapts to Changes Brought by COVID-19
These last few months have been a whirlwind, but not at all in a way that we expected. Like the rest of the country, when the stay-at-home orders went into place back in March, we had to drastically change the way we do things at KYEA. For about a month and a half, KYEA staff worked from their homes. We conducted staffings over the phone, relied on a lot of email communication, and had to begin thinking about the future of our programs for 2020. As you read below, you will see some of the changes that have had to happen with our programs. As for our daily work, KYEA staff are back in the office... yay!! We are practicing all safety guidelines, including wear masks, staying socially distant as much as possible, and using hand sanitizer and washing our hands frequently. We also currently have our office doors locked to the public. This will definitely not be forever, but it is what we have to do right now to keep our staff safe and healthy. If you need to get a hold of us, please remember that we are only a phone call, email, text, or Facebook message away! 
KS Youth Leadership Forum 2020 Cancelled Due to COVID-19   
KSYLF dove logo
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF). It is a special year that we look back on so many lives changed by this empowering, important program. It is also now a year that we will never forget. We could never, in a million years, have imagined having to cancel the KSYLF. It is the highlight of so many people's year. But, with the current COVID-19 pandemic occurring in our country, we have had to deeply and objectively think about how to proceed with this program in 2020. We have decided that the best decision is to cancel the 2020 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum. This decision will best ensure the safety and health of our youth delegates, volunteers, KYEA staff, and everyone involved.

This was not an easy decision in any way. We have considered it from every angle. First, the KSYLF is a large gathering of people in one place. Delegates and volunteers live and sleep in close quarters for the entire week. The Forum is built on people bonding, emotionally supporting each other, and connecting in the presence of a group. We dance, we hug, we gather in small groups to discuss life, we put our arms around each other as a sign of support... the KSYLF just would not be what it is with social distancing guidelines put in place. And we know that, in July, social distancing is still going to be needed and encouraged in the state of Kansas. There is no execution plan that could fully ensure the safety and health of everyone involved in this program. THAT is our absolute top priority.  On a regular basis, we teach youth to prioritize their physical and mental health, along with learning how to be flexible and plan for success. KYEA strives to role model the actions that we want to see in our youth, and, because of this intention, we must practice what we preach through these extraordinary times.

With all of that said, we have made the decision to cancel this year's KSYLF... but wait, we have some good news! First, all youth who were selected to attend this year's KSYLF will be allowed to participate in the 2021 KSYLF to be held next July, regardless of their grade. They will also receive exclusive perks from now until next year that past delegates have not received, including bi-monthly Zoom calls with KYEA staff, a KSYLF coach, a private Facebook group, assistance with goals, and more. Also, because this technically is our 20th anniversary, KYEA is making a plan to have a virtual reunion! Check out the article to the left for more about this. So, while this year is VERY different, we feel that it is definitely a year to reflect on 20 successful Forums AND get ready for many more to come!

We know that so many people look forward to the KSYLF week. We will all feel an emptiness this summer without having this program. BUT, this is only for one year. Our hope is that the KSYLF will be back and going strong by July of next year! In the meantime, we want to thank all of you for the support that you have shown us over the last 20 years. At KYEA, we get to build the foundation for our programs, but you all help us to make that foundation possible. Thank you for believing in this program and for helping us to get to our 20th year! We look forward to empowering youth, building leaders, and changing lives for many years to come!

Pre-ETS Empower Me! Workshops Cancelled, Will Resume in the Fall    
Empower Me workshop logo with symbols of different jobs Normally, in our newsletter, we update you on our many travels around the state conducting our Empower Me! workshops with Pre-ETS. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that started back in March, our two remaining workshops had to be cancelled. We were supposed to be heading to Chanute and Beloit in April, but since stay-at-home orders were in place by then and gatherings were banned, these workshops were not able to happen. Those were meant to be the last of our Empower Me! workshops during this school year. We are hopeful that these workshops will start back up in the fall! There are lots of locations that will be on our schedule. Stay tuned for updates regarding this as September nears!  
Question of the Month
What are you doing with your time during this period of social distancing? How are you choosing to fill your day?
With change comes finding ways to adapt. Since all of us have had to stay home a lot lately, people have been finding various creative ways to stay busy. We asked our alumni and friends to share how they have been filling their time lately. Check out the many answers below...

quotation mark Tagan Trahoon wearing headphones at his job
When not working, my wife and I have been using our time to go on walks and get healthier. I am happy to say I have lost nearly 30 pounds by taking some initiative and getting out of the house when I can. Despite not getting to spend much time with our friends and family, my wife and I feel even closer then we have been before. It has given us a lot of time to spend together. While it is not the ideal situation, we are happy some positives have come out of it. 
- Tagan Trahoon, KSYLF Alumni '11

Madison Zimmerman
I'm just going outside a lot, going for walks, and playing basketball in the driveway. 
- Madison Zimmerman, KSYLF Alumna '19
Joe Stroud
I work for Kroger Industries, so been working and taking classes at WSU at home via Online Instruction. 
- Joe Stroud, KSYLF Alumni '07
Katie Horrell
Reading, Watching Movies, baking, Zoom calls (for work), and working out everyday. A little bit of writing as well. 
- Katie Horrell, KSYLF Alumna '12

Seth Wagner smiling with two children
Video gaming, watching Netflix, playing cards, playing ladder ball, eating a ton of mac and cheese, drinking water, and video chatting with family. 
- Seth Wagner, KSYLF Alumni '12

Kelly Abrahamian
Puzzles, working out, focusing on drinking water, and coloring. 
- Kelly Abrahamian

Kyle Christine with his date
Drawing, watching YouTube and Disney+, phone calls, and reading. 
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11

Julia Guthrie
By studying and doing homework and Zoom calls. Cooking with my family, dancing, talking to my family and friends, texting them, and quotation markdoing puzzles. 
- Julia Guthrie, KSYLF Alumna '13
"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
                      -- Socrates
What the heck does that mean?
Words that you may be hearing a lot and what they actually mean
Question mark
It seems like, when we turn on the news or look online these days, a new word is being mentioned every day. There are all of these terms that you might be hearing, and your thought might be, what in the world does that mean? Well, we want to help you out and explain some of these words in a language that everyone can understand. Here are some terms that you might be hearing:

Coronavirus or COVID-19 
The virus that is infecting many people across our entire world. COVID-19, named after the year that it was first detected, is the type of coronavirus that is infecting people now.

Social distancing 
Staying at least 6 feet apart from another person. This keeps people from spreading COVID-19. It also could mean limiting when and where people gather, like big events.

Stay-at-home order or Shelter-in-place 
Requires people to stay at home and not leave unless absolutely necessary, like to go to the grocery store or doctor. Kansas had an order like this in April, but it has now been lifted.

Quarantine / Isolation 
Quarantine is when someone appears healthy, but could be sick, and they stay away from other people generally in their house or one location. Isolation is when someone is sick and is kept apart from others.

When there is a sudden increase of amount of people getting a serious disease all across the world.

"Flatten the curve" 
Lowering the rate that people get the virus so that hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients.

A helpful drug that is given to people to help their body fight off a disease or not get a virus. Scientists are trying to find a vaccine for COVID-19 right now.

A computer program that allows people to talk to each other by video. Many people are using this to communicate with co-workers or friends from their own home. There are other options like Google Meet, WebEx, etc.

Stimulus check 
A check that most people in the U.S. have received or will receive so that they will have some spending money during this pandemic. The thought is that, if people are spending money, it will help our economy.
Balancing life during this current change 
Tips for time management when we stay in the same place 
Have you been struggling with balancing the different parts of your life when they are all happening in your home? You are not alone. Taylor Nguyen knows what it is like to balance school, work, personal life, self-care, etc. while doing it all from one place. Check out her helpful tips below.  
by Taylor Nguyen, Faces Alumna '17 and KSYLF Alumna '18 

A bunch of things on a desk including a laptop and craft supplies and paper and scissors If you are anything like me, time management was something that you struggled with before our daily lives became all online. And, if I had to guess, that didn't magically disappear after the stay home orders took place. But trust me when I say this, you are doing better than you think. I see you and I feel you. I am just like you. I am still trying to figure this all out still, and I too don't have the perfect solution yet when it comes to the topic of time management. But, what I can do is share what I have been doing and only hope that it helps someone, even if it's just in a little way. So here we go...

Start by having a routine. The truth is that our body craves to have a routine. And, through having a routine, you will start to recognize that you feel more accomplished for just meeting what seems like the bare minimum to you. However, you also must be realistic. We are not robots and cannot do everything. But what you can do is start breaking things down, and plan, plan, plan. The more that you are able to break things down, those tasks don't feel so big anymore. And through this all, have grace on yourself. Remind yourself that, even on our best day, we still all need a little grace!

Remember to make things easy on yourself too! Set boundaries with everything. In today's world, it's so easy to get distracted, but don't let shiny things distract you from the end goal. Set yourself for success! I like to have everything, including breaks, on a calendar. And I like to take a moment throughout my day to lay everything out in order for the next day. That way, it's another thing done before I even get it. Last, have accountability! Yes, have accountability with your support system, but even with yourself. For example, if you want to practice self-care, plan it and put that item on your bed, and, at the end of the day, you will see and it will remind you to do it.

Mostly importantly, remember that what you do matters! Yes, this season might look a little different, but don't put your dream on pause, because, in the end, you won't regret it!
"Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone."  -- Billy Cox
How do I stay positive and have good mental health right now?  

That's a great question! This is something that many of us have been asking for months now. While Kansas is no longer in a stay-at-home order, there are still many things that we are not supposed to do, including going out that much and being around many people. So... how do we stay positive and feeling good during this time? We are not the experts on this, so we went to the internet to find some tips. Read this helpful article below for some great ideas that will help your mental health...
"How to Maintain Good Mental Health While Social Distancing"

by Amy Fairall, We Are Explorers
A man looking at a sunset with the title of the article
There's been plenty of chat lately about how to stay physically healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. But what about mental health?

Not only is this crisis and the confusion surrounding it causing anxiety, but with more and more people enacting social distancing and self-isolation measures, keeping ourselves mentally fit while cooped up inside is certainly going to be a challenge!

There are plenty of ways you can ensure you stay mentally healthy, whilst stuck at home staying physically healthy.

1. Stick to a routine
2. If you can, go outside every day
3. Stay connected with family and friends
4. Don't over do it on the Netflix
5. Don't oversaturate yourself with news
6. Learn a new skill and practice an old one
7. Bring the outdoors in
8. Keep on exercising
9. Do those odd jobs you've been putting off
10. Help others where you can

And here's another good one...
For more tips on having good mental health, check out this other great article:
Community Power!
Circle with different types of disability logos
Highlighting helpful resources throughout the state
Have you ever heard of the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities or KCDD? KYEA has partnered with KCDD for years! They have provided funding and other resources to many of our programs over the years. KCDD is a great resource for people with developmental disabilities AND they very much value leadership! Read on as our alumna, Elizabeth, explains what she learned about KCDD...

by Elizabeth Wright, Faces of Change Participant and KSYLF Alumna '18        

The Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities' (KCDD) mission is to ensure the opportunity to make choices regarding participation in society and quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities." (, Sunday, May 17, 2020.)

Craig Knutson is a policy analyst with KCDD, and I got the chance to interview him about how the Council operates, who it serves, and what it does.

Craig is one of four other staff that help execute the five-year plan that is decided by the Council. "The Council has up to twenty-three members appointed by the Governor and at least 60% of the members must be people with developmental disabilities or parents or guardians of children with developmental disabilities. From the 60% membership above, at least one-third of the appointees must be people with developmental disabilities or self-advocates," Craig said.

The Council's current plan consists of four specific "areas of priority- self advocacy, employment, education and quality assurance."  This plan allows the Council to serve people "all across the lifespan" with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

KCDD also partners with other organizations like the Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy (KYEA), Vocational Rehabilitation, Pre - Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), Centers for Independent Living (CIL's), Project SEARCH, the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK), the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), and many others. With the help of these organizations, the Council has accomplished much for the state of Kansas. Some of those accomplishments include helping to put on the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, helping to expand Project SEARCH during the Council's 2011-2016 Five-Year State Plan, and partnering with the Department of Commerce on the Disability Employment Initiative to develop two adult Project SEARCH sites.

KCDD is located in Topeka. To get in contact with Craig, you can email him at or call (785) 296-2608. To learn more about KCDD, visit
Create a Vision for Your "Good Life"

KCDD is just one organization that actively promotes the Charting the Lifecourse Framework for people with disabilities! What is this, you ask? Well, it is a tool that can help you set goals and create the life that YOU want to live!

According to the KCDD website, "The Charting the LifeCourse Framework helps people and families of all abilities and all ages develop a vision for a good life, think about what they need to know and do, identify how to find or develop supports, and discover what it takes to live the lives they want to live. Created BY SELF ADVOCATES and FAMILIES, the LifeCourse guides you in focusing on the current situation and stage of life and helps people look ahead to think about life experiences that will help move them toward an inclusive, productive life in the future."
Do you feel like you are kind of stuck right now? Do you want to work towards your best life? Try filling out the Lifecourse Worksheet!
View of the Lifecourse worksheet   
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Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy