Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Is it really May already??? Well, welcome to summer! Even though it's not officially summer yet, it is most likely summer break for most of you. So, we hope that you ended your school year on a good note and are now ready to relax, have some fun, and enjoy a few months off!
At KYEA, things have been very busy and are not slowing down anytime soon. We have been traveling across the state doing Empower Me! workshops with Pre-ETS and have conducted many months of the 2018 Faces of Change program. Now, we are gearing up for our 18th Kansas Youth Leadership Forum. Never a dull moment around our neck of the woods! But it's great because we are meeting new youth everyday, and they keep us energized.
This newsletter is full of KYEA updates and exciting opportunities. Our main theme for this issue, though, is on youth making an impact. As a young person, you CAN make a difference. You CAN start a movement. You CAN have your voice heard. We have lots of examples of youth who are doing just that, as well as many resources and tips to help you create the impact that you want on your community. So, read on and think about how you can change the world!
- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
Through Julia's Eyes
by Julia Connellis, Executive Director When people think about advocating or making an impact on the lives of others, often, the first thing that comes to mind is using your verbal voice- maybe sticking up for someone who is being bullied or participating in a protest. While using your verbal voice is a great way to make an impact, there are other ways that are too easily forgotten.
"I Can. I Will!"
One way is by using your written voice. Using written word has as much impact as using your verbal voice. For example: writing a letter to the city council in support or opposition to something that they are trying to pass, writing an e-mail to your principal about the bullying that is going on in school, or even writing a thank you note to a teacher who has impacted your life. Another way to make an impact- which is my personal favorite- is by your actions. When I am passionate about something, sometimes I find it hard to use my verbal voice or written word, so I use my actions. This can be anything from volunteering at a local non-profit to being there for someone going through hard times. It could be voting in an election or giving my leftover food to a person who is homeless.
Another aspect of making an impact that I want all of you to remember is that, it is not only about expressing yourself when you feel something is wrong, but, just as important is standing up for things that you feel are good and right. For example, thanking a past or present doctor or nurse for doing their job makes an impact on the person that you are thanking. If you love animals and care about their well-being, you might go support, in some way, your local animal shelter. If you appreciate your local firefighters for keeping you safe, you might make some cookies for your local fire station.
Last, but not least, advocating/making an impact is not about getting recognition, but, rather, it is about the good of the other person(s). So be genuine about your actions and make sure they come from your heart. Remember the words of Calvin Coolidge, "We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once."
Empower Me! Workshops Continue Throughout the State
KYEA finishes out it's 6th workshop working with Pre-ETS
It has been a very busy past few months for the KYEA staff! Our new collaboration, this year, with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) has been taking us all over the state! Since our last newsletter, KYEA staff have held Empower Me! workshops in three more areas. In each area, the youth participants have spent the day learning about all aspects of being successful in employment. Along the way, many youth have expressed gaining disability pride and learning about new resources.
Our last three workshops have included:
Stop #4... Salina! What a great group of youth that participated in this workshop that was held in March! Twenty-four participants took part in the day. These participants came from Salina, Abilene, Great Bend, Downs, and McPherson.
Youth participants, KYEA staff, and Pre-ETS staff gather for a group photo during the Empower Me workshop in Salina.
Stop #5... Winfield!
Another lively group that kept us on our toes throughout the workshop. Nineteen youth from Winfield and Arkansas City were in attendance during this workshop in April.
Participants at the Winfield Empower Me workshop take a group photo with KYEA
and Pre-ETS staff.
Stop #6... Junction City! Our final stop before summer starts. This workshop in May was attended by 23 youth, who were very interactive, from Junction City, Fort Riley, and Milford.
Participants, KYEA staff, and Pre-ETS staff gather for a group photo during the Junction City Empower me workshop.
As always, we are so appreciative of the awesome Pre-ETS staff throughout the state! Also, thanks to the youth who have attended and spent the day learning and laughing with us. Finally, a big thanks to Pizza Hut who sponsored many of our lunches in the different cities.
So, that's it for this school year! But, our Empower Me! workshops with Pre-ETS will start back up in the fall. Who knows where we will be headed next. One thing is for sure... we look forward to getting more youth on the road to employment!
Faces Alumni Take On Official KYEA Staff Positions!
Although you've seen their names before, you may not have known that two of our Faces of Change alumni now have official staff positions at KYEA. Meet them below...
Position: Administrative Assistant
Disabilities: Autism, Depression, Anxiety
Three words that describe how KYEA has impacted your life: Empowered, support, impact
Favorite part of your job: I get to give back to an organization that has changed my life!
One thing that everyone HAS to know about you: I love everyone!
Position: Faces of Change Intern
Disabilities: Schizophrenia, Cerebral Palsy, Anxiety
Three words that describe how KYEA has impacted your life: Life changing moments
Favorite part of your job: Doing data entry
One thing that everyone HAS to know about you: I am a musician. I play guitar, bass, drums, piano, and violin.
What does it mean to make an impact?
Have you ever had someone say to you that you are too young to make an impact? Well, first of all, they are wrong, and, second of all, they obviously have not been watching world news lately. We wanted to dedicate this issue to featuring youth who are making an impact because, frankly, youth are AWESOME! A person can be any age and make a difference in this world or in their community. Yes, adults have done some really great things. We celebrate that. But, young people can and are making a huge difference too!
So, what does it mean to make an impact? Well, to us, it means creating change, making someone think, improving a situation, or just making a difference in some small way. These are all examples of what it means to make an impact:
- Starting a movement- bringing people together for a common cause.
- Joining a committee or a board- while this may seem boring or too mature for you, this is a great way to have your voice heard.
- Getting involved in a community project- there are so many opportunities for community service and all of them make a difference for someone.
- Speaking up when something is not right- this could be in a group setting or even just when your classmate is being bullied. Be safe, but stand up for what is right!
- Take on an important task- create a safe space Facebook group, write a letter to the editor, join a club in school, create a positive message poster... whatever it is that you enjoy doing, use it for good!
- Choose your words wisely- one of the simplest things that you can do is just think before you speak. Words have an impact. Make your impact a positive one.
These are just a few ways to have an impact on your community and world. Think about what you are passionate about and go for it! Don't let your age stop you; don't let barriers stop you. Read on and see how other youth have made a difference. They did it and so can you! What will be your impact?
Kansas Youth Making an Impact
Taylor Nguyen, Shawnee
Taylor Nguyen has a passion for helping people. She used this passion to impact her fellow peers using a platform that is used by many... Facebook! Check out how one project started by Taylor impacted many youth in our state...
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni
Last year, Taylor Nguyen was encouraged to apply for a spot in KYEA's Faces of Change Class of 2017. She has a learning disability, and is a senior at Mill Valley High School. During my conversation with Taylor, she informed me that she is passionate about people and described how she enjoys helping them. She also told me she has a big family and enjoys living in the moment. Taylor was accepted into the program, and her passion for others helped expand her leadership skills.
Faces of Change participants must design and implement their own Community Change Project. Taylor's project focused on helping others by preventing bullying in the community. She started a Facebook group to help achieve her goal.
"I wanted to provide a space where people could feel loved and be happy," Nguyen said.
The group had 11 members total.
"I wanted to focus on high school students because that's where the bullying happens," she said.
She told me it was difficult for her to start the group at first because she wondered if the group would be effective. Taylor kept the group members active by posting questions of the day and checking in with people to see how they were. She told me she wanted to provide a space where people feel welcomed and loved at the same time.
The project helped her feel as though she had a purpose. In her spare time, Taylor enjoys staying active in her church. On Wednesday evenings, she participates in youth group. In youth group, "you make friends that will talk to you throughout the week," she said. Taylor tries to volunteer for her church as much as possible on the weekends.
I had a great time getting to know Taylor and learning more about her passions. I wish her the best of luck with finishing her senior year strong!
UPDATE! Taylor graduated high school last week and couldn't be happier! She states, "It was perfect! I wish I could do it all over again!"
Tools to help you make an impact
Making an impact can mean so many different things. Whether you need tips for working with a team or information about starting a movement, we've got lots of helpful resources for you to check out. Below are just a few good ones that we found...
Youth Move National
- if you want to make a change as a youth, then you have to check out this organization. Their mission is all about youth speaking up.
Reap What You Sow
(NYLN)- resources from a unique training that focused on uniting youth, parents, and allies. Has great information about working with people of all ages.
A new feature where you can speak up and speak out!
Check out our new space in the newsletter where people with disabilities can share what needs to be changed in our communities. This month's topic: how to make Facebook photos accessible!
by Julia Connellis, KYEA Executive Director
In the last edition of this newsletter, I wrote about how accessibility should not stop at physical access, but should go further with social media access. The need for picture descriptions when using social media is a huge way to be inclusive of people who are blind or visually impaired. Well, now that I have stated the issue, I will go one step further and discuss what is not accessible on Facebook and how you can change that with a few taps of your fingers!
A few items that are not accessible on Facebook are:
- Pictures that you take on your camera and share on Facebook
- Screen shots
- Pictures that other people or pages post
It is so frustrating to me when people share mem's that have some great quotes, but there is no picture description! Or, how about when people post cute pictures of their kids or happy occasions in their life, but I cannot share in the joy due to lack of a picture description. One of the most frustrating things is, when people take screen shots of flyers promoting upcoming events that I might want to attend, but I have no idea what is on the screen shot without a picture description.
Picture descriptions are really not as hard as it may sound. Here are a few steps to start making your life, and what is important to you, accessible for all:
1. Either type a description in the caption area of the photo.
2. Use the new ALT TEXT capability within Facebook. Here are the steps below:
- Click on the picture once you have posted it.
- Click on "Options" that should appear in the lower right-hand corner of the picture once you put your mouse over it.
- Click "Change Alt Text"
- A window will pop up to change the alt text. Facebook will take a guess at what is in the picture. If you want a better description (we suggest this!), then click "Override generated alt text."
- Type in a description of your photo and then click "Save."
That's it! So simple, and yet so helpful!
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The annual
Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas Conference is right around the corner in June! This is a great conference and an opportunity for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities to meet, share, and learn from each other and experts in the field. Participants have the opportunity to choose from 20 different learning sessions during 5 breakout sessions. A motivating keynote speaker and other activities are also offered at the conference. Contact SACK at 785-749-5588 to learn more and register.
- Are you in Topeka and looking for an exciting opportunity for the summer? The Topeka Independent Living Resource Center is seeking participants for their
George Wolf Youth Internship Program
. This is an internship specifically for youth with disabilities between the ages of 14 and 19. It is a paid internship where you learn about disability pride, rights, and the independent living movement. If interested, don't delay... applications are due by today, May 25!
- It's summer! Camp time! If you are a girl with a disability ages 8 and up, consider attending
Girls Can Camp
. This camp takes place in July at the Rotary Youth Camp in Lee's Summit, MO. While this is not in Kansas, it is very close by for those in the northeast part of the state. This is a fully accessible camp site.
- Are you looking for new places to find
personal care attendants
? This site is specific to Kansas. Check out the
Rewarding Work website
- If you are looking for volunteer opportunities this summer, you might look into the
Youth Volunteer Corp
organization. This organization is a service-learning youth nonprofit that creates volunteer opportunities for youth ages 11-18, to address community needs and inspire a lifetime commitment to service. They have various chapters in Kansas and are coordinating multiple service projects for this summer. To find a YVC chapter in your city, visit the
Opportunities on a National Level
- The national organization, Kids As Self-Advocates, is looking for board members!
Would you like to exercise your leadership on a more national level? This might be the opportunity for you! KASA is an organization that supports the voices of youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs. They are looking for youth who are already serving in some leadership capacity in their state and would like to expand their experience to a national level. To learn more, contact KASA president, Matthew Shapiro, at
Are you a youth with a developmental or mental health disability between the ages of 18 and 30? The IDD-MH Research Partnership wants to hear from you! Share your experiences by taking their
survey on the mental health services provided to youth
. By taking the survey, you will be entered to win a $25 gift card!
Take the survey
- SCHOLARSHIP! NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship
AAPD is giving out 8 of these scholarships for the fall of 2018. This scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing an interest in the media, entertainment, or communications fields. High school seniors planning to begin their undergraduate studies in fall 2018 are also eligible to apply. Apply by June 6!
Are you a young person with a disability who wants to live in your own home? Tell your story for the
Disability Integration Act Essay contest
! Your essay could win you a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Members of Congress about the Disability Integration Act! This bill relates to people being forced into nursing homes in order to receive the assistance they need. In 500 - 2000 words, tell the National Council on Independent Living what the Disability Integration Act means to you and how your life will be impacted when the bill passes. Essays are due by June 15.
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)
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KS Youth Leadership Forum 2018 Delegates Announced!
The Kansas Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities (KSYLF) is gearing up for its eighteenth annual program. Twenty-three motivated young leaders have been selected to attend the 2018 forum. This year's KSYLF will be held July 10 - 14 at Washburn University in Topeka.
The theme for this year's forum will be "50% Determination + 50% Action= 100% ABLE." This theme will emphasize that EVERYONE is able with the right combination of determination and action! Participants will learn that anything is possible and that they can achieve their goals. They will also learn that, in order to achieve their goals and be successful, they must be determined and be willing to take steps forward. This often means stepping out of your comfort zone. Participants will learn to focus on their abilities, while also celebrating their disabilities. They will leave the week knowing that they are 100% ABLE to be leaders! A diverse group of delegates were selected to attend the 2018 KSYLF, including students from a variety of cities in Kansas with a wide range of disabilities.
The KSYLF is an annual conference that is heading into its eighteenth year serving students with disabilities across the state. During the forum, delegates enjoy a week full of learning, fun, friends, and, most of all, a new sense of empowerment! Through various large and small sessions, delegates are able to learn about and explore various topics related to leadership. They are able to set goals for the future and develop their very own Personal Leadership Plan. A trip to the Capital is always a highlight of the week, as well as a mentor luncheon where delegates are paired with an adult mentor from their community. Other fun activities include a recreation session, a real life fair, a barbecue, a talent show, and a dance!
KYEA Seeking Award Nominations
We are still seeking nominations for our three annual KYEA awards. Consider nominating someone that you know! Nominations are due by JUNE 1! Check out the awards below:
JUSTIN COSCO AWARD
This is given out to a KSYLF alumni who has demonstrated progress toward their goals and growth as a leader. Alumni can either nominate themselves or be nominated by
MENTORING MATTERS AWARD
This award is given to individuals in our state who have made a difference serving as a mentor to a youth with a disability. This could include one-on-one mentoring, job shadowing, group mentoring, or e-mentoring.
SPIRIT OF HOPE AWARD
This award is for champions of young people with disabilities in our state... they promote the contributions of youth and have a passion for empowering our next generation. Examples could include being a volunteer at KYEA, involvement in another youth program, actively sharing a message, etc.
Congratulations to all of our alumni, volunteers, supporters, and friends who recently graduated! Graduation is a huge accomplishment, and you should be proud! The future is all up to you... embrace it!
Our therapeutic manager shares how she uses her voice!
Dogs don't have a voice you say? Well, Madonna wants to prove you wrong! This month, she shares how she advocates and makes an impact with her "voice."
For some reason, humans think that dogs do not advocate for themselves. I am here to tell you that I advocate every day!! I have a Great Dane who lives across the street from me (my doggie crush). I bark at him before I go to work and when I get back to the doghouse (home). When humans come through the door, I run to greet them with a couple of hops and a big wet kiss. When I have to go potty, I jump up and down really high so someone can take me out. When I am happy, my cute little tail is just a wagging! When I have not seen mommy (Julia) for a while and she comes home, my entire body just wiggles like I have ants in my fur! When I am nervous, I bite my tail. And, most of all, when I love someone, I give them lots of kisses on the face and sit in their lap. So you see, I advocate and make an impact ALL the time! Sometimes humans may have a hard time understanding what I am saying, but, if you listen and watch real close, you too can understand dog language. I know I am making an impact because mommy brings me back to work every day, people smile at me, they hug me and they give me treats! So, do not let anyone ever tell you that you cannot make an impact, because you CAN! And, if they do tell you that, you just send them my way, and I will nibble on their heels for you.
Much Wuv (love),
(Therapeutic Manager/best poodle ever)
Taking Back Your Voice
Great Bend youth shares her passion for speaking up within the foster care system
by Kenadee Kessler, Empower Me Alumna
Many people ask, what is foster care? Foster care is when children are taken out of their homes and placed in a residential center, a group home, or a foster home away from their families and their siblings. Children get placed out of their homes for many different reasons such as abuse, drug use, child abandonment, their parents not being stable, self-harm, truancy, running away and others.
My experience with the foster care system and being taken out of the home is being in physical and emotional shock. It's hard to communicate with anyone, even the caseworkers. When you first get put in, it is scary because you go to a new place with people you don't know. When I got put in for the first time, at the age of six, I was scared because I didn't have a mom or a dad. I didn't have either adoptive parent so the only real parents I had weren't there. When I got put into my very first foster home, they treated me all right. They tried to communicate with me, but I wouldn't answer. A few days later, caseworkers came to check on me, and I didn't talk to them either. Before foster care, my normal was raising my three younger brothers.
During foster care, children have case workers who come and talk to you every month and they take notes on how you are doing. Those notes go towards court reports. Court reports are when your caseworkers and foster parents write reports on how things are going.
I got released from foster care at seven and, once I went home, the abuse and stuff happened again. I then got put back in the system at age 12 where I have been the last five years.
When children are placed into the foster system, they are assigned to social workers, therapists, judges, and a guardian ad litem (GAL). Their GAL represents the child(ren) in court and suggests what is best for the child(ren). If there is only one older child, the older child goes for however many siblings they have, including themselves.
If the children are over 13, they can voice their opinion on what they think is best for them. When children enter foster care, the siblings can be all placed together or separated. Children get visits with parents and siblings once a week. If parents don't do what needs done, they could possibly get their parental rights severed or terminated. When and if a child turns 18, they are discharged from foster care after they prove they can live on their own in the real world.
All my life, I've been told that I would never amount to anything and now I am graduating High School then moving on to college to become a caseworker for children in my situation and in worse situations. The reason I want to be this for them is because I want to use my voice and be their light at the end of the tunnel. I know what it's like to feel like you have no one. I want to use my voice and do what's right not only for foster kids, but also my community and the world around me.
Starting a Youth Movement
How we can all learn from the efforts of the students in Florida
Youth CAN make a difference! The most clear example of this has been in the advocacy work of the students who experienced the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. They have done many things right to have their voices heard. Read on and learn...
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
Want to start a social movement? You can! One really great example of youth creating a movement is shown in the students who experienced the February 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They lived through a horrible experience and decided to take steps to stop it from happening to other students. Below are some points on what these youth have done to create an effective youth movement:
1. Name your movement - The youth at Stoneman Douglas stated their name and their cause all in one. Never Again MSD (Marjory Stoneman Douglas (High School)) pretty much says it all.
2. Effective spokespersons - Three youth were selected who are well-spoken, engaging, and who have had experience communicating in front of an audience. These leaders spoke on camera to their federal congress person and to the President of our country. Strong leaders are critical to any social movement.
3. Clear, targeted platform - Due to the shared experience of the shooting at their school, the students helped create a unified message to raise age limits and require universal background checks for access to assault rifles and other guns. Effective targeted messaging was directed to state and federal legislators, to the National Rifle Association, and to youth worldwide. They were heard, and because they were heard, Never Again MSD was seen by important people.
4. Starting local and building a national presence - The youth had the attention of the media, and they kept that focus by announcing two national school walk-out dates and the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C.
5. Engaging different voices - The March for Our Lives Rally included different voices of youth of other races, socio-economic levels, and communities. The overall message would not have been as strong without these different voices.
Read more about the awesome Florida youth by checking out this article in The New Yorker:
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
As we mentioned last issue, our Community Power section is changing just a bit. We are now featuring a different service that a CIL provides in each newsletter. This month is... TRANSITION! Read more to learn about the new emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities.
by Sean Tyree, Faces of Change 2018 class
Centers for Independent Living (CIL's) provide core services that assist people with disabilities in becoming independent, gaining personal control of their lives, and advocate against the physical (ex: store entryways) and non-physical (public prejudice) barriers to everyday life. Of importance to me is the core service of TRANSITION. I'm 16 years old, and I need to live at least another 70 years. I want and need a career so I can make a decent living to live my ideal life with kids, healthcare, home ownership, and travel. Transitional services are designed to give youth training opportunities, peer support, and mentor support to assist us with things like developing our 504 plans and making contacts with resources, such as Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Working Healthy program. These services can help us find the best resources to reach our goals and break through community and social barriers.
For this article, I interviewed Roger Frischenmeyer from Prairie Independent Living Resource Center with offices in Hutchinson, Pratt, Dodge City and Newton. Centers for Independent Living (CILs), including PILR, provide the following Core Services: Transition, Independent Living Skills Training, Information and Referral, Peer Support, and Individual and Systems Advocacy. Roger is an active advocate and has a passion for working with youth. When asked what words of wisdom he could share with today's youth, he said "Follow Your Dreams!" For more information about transition services, contact Roger at (620) 663-3989 or
Want to get involved with your local CIL? Here are exciting upcoming opportunities:
Independence, Inc. (Lawrence)
Accessible Gardening Group- contact Ranita at 785-841-0333 for the June meeting date and time.
Independence, Inc. has multiple fun events going on throughout the month, like cooking clubs, movie and game nights, and Adaptive Use Musical Instrument. To find out the dates of upcoming meetings, contact Independence, Inc. at 785-841-0333.
*To have your CIL's event dates listed in future issues, contact Johnna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAVE THE DATE!
August 9-10, 2018
Ramada Inn, Topeka
The Kansas Disability Caucus is back! Plan to attend this large gathering of the disability community in our state. Join with other advocates to discuss moving our state forward and celebrate turning setbacks into comebacks! Registration materials coming soon...
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 next issue that will come out in August!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA 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.
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy