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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #25
March 2014
in this issue
:: Behind Julia's Glasses
:: Meet our new ICON
:: ICON Accomplishments: Congrats to Amber
:: Spotlight On: Youth with Disabilities and Their Mentors
:: People with Disabilities Can Play Sports Too!
:: State and National Opportunities
:: Leaders on a National Level
:: KYEA Updates
:: Leadership and Employment
:: Online Quizzes to Get to Know Yourself Better
:: Top Ten Examples of Leadership
:: Question of the Month

March is almost over, but March Madness is going strong! In the past few weeks, people have been filling out their brackets, picking their favorite basketball teams, and predicting the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament. Have you made your picks yet? If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you are probably not a sports fan, and that is okay. Whether you like basketball or not, we all have to admire the determination and hard work of every player on these teams. These are very important skills of leaders! It takes leadership to win a tournament, and that is why we have picked leadership as this month's theme of the newsletter.

Leadership is at the core of what we do at KYEA. We fully believe that youth with disabilities CAN and SHOULD be leaders. They should lead in their own lives and they should lead in different areas of the community. There is so much information about leadership out there and there a ton of different ways to demonstrate leadership. In this newsletter, we bring you examples of people who are leaders, a list of leadership in its many forms, fun quizzes to determine your leadership style, and lots of helpful information about being a young leader with a disability. We also bring you the latest KYEA updates, opportunities, and of course an article on sports because it is March Madness, in case you forgot!

So, read on and think about how you can be a leader. How will YOU use your skills to excel? Enjoy!

- 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.


I remember the time when people began to take notice of me and began calling me a leader.  As amazing as that sounded and felt, it scared the HELL out of me and still does!  At that time, my view of being a leader was someone who had high confidence, high intelligence, was calm at all times and has the right answers for everything.  I knew I could not live up to this expectation, or shall I say, MY own outrageous expectation for myself.  I don't have all of the answers (although some may say I act like I do. Lol!) and Lord knows, I still have times when my answers are just flat out wrong.  The thing is, I never saw other leaders admitting that they have failed, but rather, they would frequently only share their triumphs.  So, by not hearing these failures, I figured leaders never make mistakes.


One of my many failures happened when I let my anxiety get the best of me, and I missed a deadline for a grant.  The turmoil I felt was horrible.  I was actually preparing to quit KYEA because I felt that my mistake meant I was not good enough to be Executive Director.  When confiding in a leader, she shared with me the time that she turned in a grant late.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  We began to discuss the issue of leaders not sharing their mistakes and how this creates an unrealistic view of success and leadership.


"The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." - Harvey S. Firestone


True leaders achieve their leadership position by making lots of mistakes, admitting their stumbles and trying again. For those of you who want to become a leader for the power and ability to boss people around... I hate to bust your bubble, but here goes.  Leadership is NOT about power and prestige, but rather growth and development within ourselves so that we can work with others to grow and develop the community around them.  Now that the bubble is popped, as the great rapper Jay-Z said, "You got to get that dirt off your shoulder," share your mistakes, and try again.

Kenyatta Black
Meet our new ICON!
We have a new youth intern in the KYEA office! Learn all about her below...


Kenyatta Black 


Age: 19 


Education: Senior at home school J.L. James Academy 


Disability: Fetal alcohol Syndrome- it causes me to forget things and understand comprehension and have difficulty with time and money. 


Favorite thing about being an ICON:  

This internship is teaching me how to get a real job, how to do things on my own, and trust myself and work hard. 


Favorite hobbies: I like to play basketball at Special Olympics, play WII, jump on the trampoline, listen to music, swing at the park, ride my bike, watch movies & TV, color, paint, and read.

ICON Accomplishments! 
Congrats to Amber Meaux on completing her first 5-month internship with KYEA! Amber is sticking around for a little bit longer as she will have a second internship with KYEA. We are excited to keep her as part of our staff team! Read more about Amber as she describes her advocacy journey below...


Amber Meaux "As you can see I have goals for myself, I want to be much more than just someone who is blind and can't do anything for myself. I want to show those who thought that I couldn't do it, that they were wrong indeed. I love proving people wrong especially since I know we can do it with just a little push in the right way. Also, using the resources that are available to you, the biggest one for me right now is VR, because they are going to pay for me to go to college and get all the technology I will need. Remember if you don't make a difference in your life, who else will. You have to take the first step.

My name is Amber Meaux, and I'm visually impaired due to a condition known as Retinoblastoma which is a cancer of the eye. I was born with this so I have been blind all my life. Since I'm the only one in my family who is blind, I went to the Mississippi School for the Blind and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired."

Continue reading
Spotlight On! 
Leadership through Mentoring: Youth with Disabilities and Their Mentors


by Amber Meaux, ICON Intern  

Mentors and role models can show us how to be good leaders. Oftentimes, we look up to other people because of their leadership skills. Richard Shaver sees his grandpa as his mentor for many reasons. Read on for their full story...
Richard and his grandfather smiling and pointing at each other


Richard Shaver is a 17 year old young man who has Autism, enjoys life, and has been volunteering with KYEA for the past few months to fulfill his community service hours for school. When asked who is his mentor is, Richard instantly thought of his grandfather, Theirold Lanier. Richard says that he has learned a lot from his grandfather. He stated that his grandfather is very patient with him and shows him how to be a gentleman. Both Richard and his grandfather appreciate the relationship that they have and wouldn't change anything. Theirold is very proud of Richard and what he wants to do for himself as he grows. He agrees that patience is the biggest part of their relationship. Theirold has a motto that he goes by in his relationship with Richard and in everyday life.


"Hollering at someone will not accomplish anything," Theirold says.


God plays a big part in this relationship as well. Both Richard and his grandfather have often questioned God, but have come to realize that He is in control and has the last word in everything. Their relationship will continue to grow, and Richard's grandfather hopes that he will one day learn how to drive since he really wants to do that. Theirold has a lot of faith is his grandson and only wants the best for him.

It's March Madness, but can people with disabilities play sports too?
basketball going through hoop It's March Madness, and you know what that means? This month, people are going wild rooting for their favorite basketball team in the NCAA tournament! So, can people with disabilities be involved in basketball? What about baseball? Of course they can! People with disabilities can be involved in all kinds of sports. Have you heard of the Paralympics? This is just like the Olympics, but it is specifically for those individuals who have disabilities. There are lots of options for people with disabilities to play sports.

In Kansas, one group that works to make sports available to people with disabilities is Kansas Accessible Sports (KAS). KAS has a mission to help adults and teenagers with physical disabilities increase their health, fitness, and quality of life through participation in organized wheelchair sports teams. If you've ever been to our Youth Leadership Forum, then you probably remember the wheelchair basketball game with the Kansas Wheelhawks. The Wheelhawks are one team organized by KAS. The group also, in recent years, has formed a wheelchair softball team called the Kansas City Diamond. Both teams practice frequently and are open to anyone who wants to join.

There are many more accessible sports groups in our state. Check out the websites of all of these great organizations:

Kansas Accessible Sports- 

Wheelchair Sports, Inc.-  

Wichita Beep Baseball Association-  

Missouri Valley Kansas Tennis-  

Special Olympics Kansas-  

Learn all about the Paralympics at!  
News and Events


Opportunities in Kansas


- Registration is now open for the 2014 Employment First Summit! If you have an interest in advocating for more people with disabilities to get jobs, then come to this conference to learn all about employment for people with disabilities in Kansas. "Changing Expectations: Changing Lives" will take place on April 30-May 1, 2014 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka. Read more...


- Job Opening with Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas: SACK is currently looking for applicants for their coordinator position. This person works with those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities through direct work with local self advocate groups and through legislative and system change. Read the job description 


- A new Ms. Wheelchair Kansas has been selected! Congratulations to Bridgid Schwilling who will educate, advocate, and empower all people in our state in the coming year. Read more...   


- Do you think Medicaid should be expanded in Kansas? Learn more about this issue!  


- For the ninth year, ILRC will host the iCan Bike, previously known as Lose the Training Wheels-Wichita, a five-day camp where kids, teens and adults with disabilities learn to ride regular bicycles-without training wheels! The event will take place in July. Read more... 



Opportunities on a National Level


- The HSC Foundation is seeking the next generation of disability advocates!

Young leaders with a disability are encouraged to apply for up to $10,000 in funding through the Advocates in Disability Award. This program awards and encourages young adults with disabilities who are dedicated to positively affecting the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. The program also supports a project developed by the recipient. Read more... 


- Do you want to learn more about independent living as a young person with a disability? The National Youth Leadership Network wants to tell you about it! They will be having an upcoming webinar, on April 10, to share about two new resources that they have created focused on independent living and making a difference in rural areas.


- Do you need a new wheelchair accessible vehicle? Would you like to win one? Then enter the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association's Local Heroes Contest! Enter your story of how you have persevered, achieved, or advocated; get people to vote for you; and you could win one of three customized wheelchair accessible vehicles. Read more... 


- An advocate in Texas is seeking examples and feedback on how smartphones, tablets and social media can have an impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities. If you would like to share your story, contact Benjamin Snow at or 210-488-2879. 


- There is still time to apply for a White House internship this summer! The deadline is April 13. Read more...  

Leaders on a National Level 

Profiles of young adult leaders who started out as youth just like you!

by Richard Shaver, KYEA Volunteer


Did you know that there is a national youth movement for youth with disabilities? Many of the people featured below have paved the way for youth with disabilities to become recognized leaders. These people started out as youth leaders and are now widely recognized for their accomplishments and involvement. 


Ari Ne'eman Ari Ne'eman
Ari Ne'eman was born on December 10, 1987. He is an American autism rights activist who co-founded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in 2006. On December 16, 2009, President Barack Obama announced that Ari Ne'eman would be appointed to the National Council on Disability. He was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to serve on the Council on June 22, 2010. He is currently the chair of the Council's Policy and Program Evaluation Committee. He has a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, making him the first person with an autistic spectrum disability to serve on the council. Ari advocates on issues like expanding access to employment supports for adults with autism, including youth in school who are on the autism spectrum, and other disability related issues.


Christina Mills Christina Mills

Christina Mills is a person who is trying to help students who have disabilities in the state of California be able to get equal education, like those without disabilities. She is working right now to help students in the California Community College school system. She is trying to tell the government of California that the cuts that they have been making related to students with disabilities in their school systems is a very bad thing. It cuts all the money that could have been used to help all of the students who have disabilities and are trying very hard to get through school just like any other student. Christina currently works as the Deputy Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. She attended the California Youth Leadership Forum in 1995 and, since then, has been largely involved in the youth disability movement.


Michael Beers Michael Beers 

Michael Beers is a comedian who has a disability. He has performed stand up comedy for many years. He is trying to become very well-known like other comedians Chris Rock and Bill Cosby. Michael also takes classes and is a communications major at the University of Montana. He is also very much involved with the Alliance for Disability and Students at the University of Montana (ADSUM). Also, he works with local high-school students with disabilities through the Building Advocacy and Learning Leadership Skills courses, as well as other programs. Michael attended the Montana Youth Leadership Forum and continues to frequently volunteer with this program. He is also very involved with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL).

KYEA Updates

Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...


by Carrie Greenwood and Johnna Godinez 


Help us raise money... donate your garage sale and bake sale items! 

Garage sale sign with balloons It's time for our annual Garage Sale fundraiser! We need your help! A garage sale is not complete without lots of great items. KYEA is currently in need of various garage sale items. Search your house, your basement, under your bed... what things are you not using that someone else might love? Donate them to the KYEA Garage Sale! We will accept the following items: decorative items, kitchen ware, used DVDs & CDs, small pieces of furniture, small working appliances, books, blankets, sheets, toys in working condition, etc. Please no clothing or shoes. We will also be having a bake sale! Donate home-baked items such as one dozen cookies, pies, tarts, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, etc. Drop all donations off at the KYEA office (517 SW 37th St., Suite B, Topeka). Garage sale donations will be accepted up until May 23. Bake sale donations will be accepted May 28-30.

All proceeds from the Garage Sale and Bake Sale go directly towards KYEA to assist us with serving youth with disabilities in our state! Your donation makes a huge difference!

Also, mark your calendars! Come on out and shop our Garage Sale and Bake Sale on May 31 from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm in the KYEA parking lot. Hope to see you there!

View the flyer



KSYLF Alumni Raises Funds for KYEA

thermometer with fundraising levels Brian Gano (Butters), KSYLF Alumni '04, was greatly impacted by his experience at the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum many years ago. He says, "I started to view myself and others with new light. Today, I can honestly say [KYEA is] the driving force behind my independence. All I want is to give back to those that helped me become successful in life." So, Brian is doing something to give back! He has set up a website to help raise funds for KYEA. Support Brian and KYEA by donating today! Thank you Brian... you are awesome!


Visit Brian's Go Fund Me website 



KYEA to Offer Job Shadowing Experiences Through New Mentoring Matters Program 

Mentoring Matters logo with heart and palm holding logo up

Let me ask you a question. What do you want to do when you grow up? No idea? Well, has KYEA got a service for you! Mentoring Matters is our newest service where we, at the request of youth with disabilities (ages 13-25), set-up short-term, one day job-shadowing experiences for young people in Shawnee County. This is your chance to begin your employment journey by taking three hours out of one day for exploring the kinds of jobs that are out there. The best part is, you can shadow several different job or career areas through multiple job-shadow experiences.


Mentoring Matters is different than some other job shadowing programs; these services can be accessed all year long. KYEA recognizes that youth with disabilities need the flexibility of job-shadowing experiences that can occur all throughout the year. Right now, Mentoring Matters is only available to youth in Shawnee County, but we hope to make it a statewide program in the future. To inquire about, or set-up a job-shadowing experience, please contact Johnna at or (785) 215-6655 ext. 3.

Empower Me! Series Kicks Off with Weekend Workshop "Now Hiring" in Kansas City
newspaper with jobs headline Are you a young person with a disability in the Kansas City area who wants to learn more about employment? Then join us at our upcoming weekend workshop, "Now Hiring." KYEA is working in collaboration with Coalition for Independence to kick off our new Empower Me! Series. Spend a day with KYEA staff and guests learning about various aspects of getting a job. Topics covered will include searching for a job that you enjoy, accommodations in the workplace, setting employment goals for yourself, etiquette and soft skills in a job, and much more. KYEA staff will also seek ideas and feedback from attendees on programs for youth with disabilities in the Kansas City area.

"Now Hiring" will take place on an upcoming weekend, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at Coalition for Independence in Kansas City, KS. This one-day workshop is FREE and is open to youth with disabilities ages 16-25 who live in the Kansas City area and surrounding towns.

This workshop will be full of information, discussion, activities, prizes, food, and more! Attend "Now Hiring" to learn all about getting a job and meet other youth in your area!

Leadership 101   
What is leadership? Why is it so important when it comes to employment? This article defines leadership, explains the characteristics of leaders, and emphasizes the importance of leadership skills.
"How to Gain the Leadership Experience Employers Want"

from Best Colleges Online--

According to The Job Outlook for the College Class of 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly all of the top ten bachelor degrees for hiring in the current job market involve leadership ability. These include some of the most popular degrees offered online, such as business administration and marketing management (November 2012). Furthermore, even if you are an e-learner who does not intend to pursue a direct supervisory role, "leadership" is an often cited soft skill on most prospective employers' lists of wants for their employees.

Clearly, leadership is a new trend in hiring, and graduates about to enter the workforce must be prepared to develop and demonstrate that they have this talent. But what is meant by "leadership skills," and how do students, especially e-learners, attain and document that they have such abilities? To help guide you, here is an explanation of what employers are looking for and ways you can show them you have leadership skills.

Read the full article
Get to Know Yourself Better  
Online quizzes to learn about your leadership style, personality, and more!
smiley face that is thinking of the answers to questions  
Personality Test- take this quiz to find out all kinds of interesting things about your personality, what kind of person that you are, and what careers might fit your personality.

Leadership Legacy Assessment Test- this quiz will show you what kind of leader that you are and how people will remember you as a leader.

Leadership Style Test- learn whether you possess the personality traits and skills that characterize good leaders.

Assertiveness Test- assertiveness can really help someone that is a leader. See how good you are at being assertive.

Time Management Survey- good leaders have good time management. Learn if you do well at managing your time. 
Top 10 Top Ten Examples of Leadership 
Leadership comes in so many different forms and can mean many different things to different people. You may not think you are a leader, but check out this list, and you might see yourself in some of these examples. KYEA staff members weigh in on what leadership really means... 
1. Admitting your mistakes.

2. Grace under pressure. 

3. Being able to follow when others are in the lead position. 

4. Having the courage to express your opinion when others may disagree with you. 

5. Performing on stage with a community choir. 

6. Leadership is not who speaks the loudest, but rather who demonstrates action. 

7. Being your authentic self with no apologies. 

8. Not taking all of the credit, but acknowledging those people who helped you get there. 

9. Admitting you do not know the answer and the willingness to find one. 

10. Living a full, active, and interesting life with a disability! 
Question of the Month
When you think of a leader, who comes to mind?

quotation mark My late friend Andrew Hurd. He left behind a legacy in a way my friends and I never expected. And that is definitely a way of leadership.
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11

My co-worker Jerika. She's the best and has all the qualities as a leader. She works hard everyday!
- Billy Clark, KSYLF Alumni '13

Bill Self
- Nick Cobos, KYEA Board Member

When I think of a good leader, I think about my mom and my grandma.
- Rochelle Kinney, KSYLF Alumna '05

Martin Luther King Jr. Not only did he bring white and black people together, but he also changed the mindset of America as well and brought us all together as a whole group. Everything he suffered showed that, no matter what you put your mind to, you can always accomplish your dream. That is what makes a true leader.
- Joseph Stroud, KSYLF Alumni '07

I think sometimes we spend too much time thinking about leaders and too little time thinking about leadership. Leadership is an activity that anyone can participate in. All one has to do is get involved.
- Roger Frischenmeyer, KYEA Board President

Carrie Greenwood
- Corey Shelton, KSYLF Alumni '10 quotation mark

I think Martin Luther King Jr.
- Lane Chambers, KSYLF Alumni '13
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Be on the lookout for our May issue focused on transitioning into the next step of your life!
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