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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #49
August 2019
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: 19 Delegates Gather for Kansas Youth Leadership Forum
:: Three Leaders Recognized at Mentor Luncheon
:: Could a 20-Year KSYLF Reunion Happen?
:: Why Should I Be a Leader?
:: Spotlight On: Elijah Ray
:: People to Know About: 6 Leaders in Kansas
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA News
:: Madonna's Corner
:: "Dear Person With Autism Who is Starting College"
:: A Unique Journey to Leadership
:: The Face of a Leader
:: A Different View: the Many Sides of Leadership
:: Question of the Month
:: Community Power: Disability Rights Center of Kansas
:: CIL Calendar

Do Something Great
Does it seem like summer flew by? It sure did for us at KYEA! But that is mostly because summer is always busy for us. This summer, we welcomed 19 young leaders into our KSYLF family! We also recently began our 4th class of Faces of Change with 9 team members! So, leadership is alive and kicking for us and this has inspired us to focus our August newsletter completely on this very topic.

Not only have we been immersed in leadership for the past few months, but we also feel like a new school year is a great time to talk about leadership. Think about it... you are starting in a new grade, maybe a new school... this is the beginning of something new. We want to challenge you to consider taking on a leadership role too. Leadership can be in your school, your community, your neighborhood, your state or nation, or even just in your own personal life. It can come in so many different forms. So, before you count yourself out as a leader, read on for many examples of what leadership can look like. Start small... you just might find out that you like being a leader and that you can make a difference!

We have lots of exciting KYEA updates below, as well as our usual state and national opportunities and spotlight on an important resource in our state. We hope that you enjoy this issue! If you are starting school or even just starting a new chapter in your life, we wish you good luck! You can do it!

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

I remember being called a leader for the first time. I was a student at Washburn University, participating in a team building activity with my peers, when my advisor (also my mentor) casually stated, in front of everyone, that I was a leader. Wait... what?? Me?? Rick was a hippie when he was younger, so I thought maybe his mind was a bit, um... clouded. I had always seen myself as a follower- a quiet young lady who volunteered and rarely spoke my mind. Leaders are supposed to be perfect, charismatic, persuasive, and be able to talk to anyone right??? Um, no!

Recently, I realized my leadership journey started when I was young. From age 5 to 23, I was in and out of hospitals on a monthly basis due to my rare eye condition at the time. I had to tell my doctors what I could and could not see, how the experimental medications were making me feel, and telling my parents when it was time for a hospitalization for medication to clear up my blurry vision. Leadership skill #1 - communication. Other times that I practiced leadership through the years include:

- Moving to Kansas in 1988, we raised greyhounds (race dogs). I had lots of chores related to this. One in particular was being the official pooper-scooper every day after school. Leadership skill #2 - responsibility.

- Choosing where to go to college. My parents wanted me to attend K-State as it was close to home. I preferred Emporia State University. Leadership skill #3 - advocacy.

- Coordinating a campus wide food drive at Washburn University. This food drive benefited community members in Topeka. With the help of my peers, we raised over 400 pounds of food. Leadership skill #4 - teamwork.

- In 2007, the position for Executive Director was available at KYEA. Although I had no intentions to apply for the position, many of my peers encouraged me and convinced me that I had what it takes to lead the organization. Being the boss does not automatically make me a leader, but the position allows me to use my leadership skills in various ways. Leadership skill #5 - passion, #6 - initiative, and #7 - visionary.

While this list could go on, I was given a word limit for this article, which I have to follow (leadership skill #8 - pay attention to details. Haha!). Leadership opportunities surround us every day. You do not become a leader when someone tells you that you are a leader. You are a leader when you take action and do what is good for the people and community around you. Leading can be very scary, but all you need to do is practice. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes an impact. How will you practice leading today?
Kansas Youth Leadership Forum Participants #DARETOLEAD 
19 delegates gather for 19th annual Forum at Washburn University   
Delegates from KSYLF 2019 take a photo with the Governor and two legislators
Delegates from the 2019 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum gather for a group photo with Governor Laura Kelly, Senator Anthony Hensley, and Representative Brenda Dietrich in the State Capital Old Supreme Court Room.
Nineteen youth leaders from across our state were challenged to DARE TO LEAD during this year's 19th annual Kansas Youth Leadership Forum! This year's KSYLF was a fantastic week of learning, growing, bonding, and full acceptance. The theme was "#DARETOLEAD: You just might change the world!" With this theme, delegates learned that leadership is not easy, but, if you take the chance, you just might change your community, your life, or even the world! Delegates were challenged to step out of their comfort zones and also learned that leadership comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes.

Our 2019 Forum was held on July 8-13 at Washburn University in Topeka. Nineteen motivated, determined youth leaders came together for the week to learn about leadership, advocacy, goal setting, resources, and much more. There were 18 staff members present throughout the week, including five KSYLF alumni who returned to serve as volunteers and share their experiences.

Delegates and volunteers look up as they gather in the State Capital RotundaThis year's KSYLF was an awesome week full of fun moments, growth, learning experiences, lots of laughs, new friendships, and opportunities to try new experiences. The delegates were very accepting of one another and bonded throughout the week. One of the highlights of week was the talent show. This is always a fun part of the week, but this year's talent show brought so many different abilities and really impressive talent, including beat boxing, ukulele, and much more! Delegates also really enjoyed the Day at the Capital, wheelchair basketball, and, of course, the dance!
Another highlight of the week was our keynote speaker at the Mentor Luncheon. Amanda Stanley is a lawyer in Topeka who works for the League of Kansas Municipalities. Amanda is a hemipelvectomy amputee who lost half of her pelvis and leg to cancer at age 24. She has not let her disability stop her, though. Amanda provided a very motivating message that proved that, if you believe in yourself and take a chance, you really can make a difference!
Three Leaders Recognized at Mentor Luncheon
No KSYLF Mentor Luncheon is complete without giving out our annual awards! This year, KYEA honored three outstanding people who are making a difference in our state.

Gabriel Gaumer holding his award next to Carrie and Julia The
Justin Cosco Award was presented to
Gabriel Gaumer, 2005 KSYLF Alumni, who recently had a memoir published about his life! Gabriel has come so far in the last few years. He currently works for MHC Kenworth in Topeka as a diesel mechanic and is a husband and dad of two sons.

Cristi Wiegers holding her award next to Julia and Carrie The
Spirit of Hope Award, in memory of John Peterson, was given to
Cristi Wiegers. Cristi has worked with youth with disabilities for the past 26 years and has a passion for helping students become independent while pursuing their goals and dreams. She currently works as the transition coordinator for the special education cooperative in Wamego.

Bob Day with one of his mentees The Mentoring Matters Award was given to Bob Day. Bob currently mentors youth through the work tech program at Wamego High School. He has been a mentor for youth for over 20 years, in one role or another, and has an attitude of acceptance and encouragement, frequently advocating for students with disabilities.
Could a 20 year KSYLF Reunion actually happen??? 
KSYLF Reunion- Maybe! So, guess what, friends? We are coming up on 20 years of having our Kansas Youth Leadership Forum! Isn't that wild?! It seems like just yesterday that we were holding the first KSYLF at the University of Kansas. And now, 20 years and 438 alumni later, here we are! Many of you have been asking about a reunion for a long time now. While we have wanted to bring you all together for a long time, gatherings of that size require money. We just have not had the funds to afford a reunion and, honestly, still don't. BUT, we are considering it for our 20th year! 
We can't do this without your help though! If you want to see a 20 year KSYLF reunion happen, then we need you! See below for how you can help: 
- We need funding to hold this event! Do you have connections to companies, banks, organizations, etc, who might be willing to donate to make this event happen? Would you be willing to hold a fundraiser for us? Please contact us and let us know. 
- We need alumni to help plan the reunion. If you would like to join a KSYLF reunion planning committee, please reach out to me at [email protected] or 785-215-6655.
- Vote on a topic! When we put together a reunion, we want to make it more than just a hang out and have fun event. We want a gathering like this to include some learning as well. So, if you were going to attend our KSYLF reunion, what topics would you like to learn about? Click this link and vote! Please note: There is also a spot on this poll for you to suggest topics not already listed. 
How awesome would it be to bring 20 years of KSYLF alumni together?? At this point, we cannot say for certain if this reunion will happen. BUT, the more support and interest that we get from you all, the more likely it is to become a reality. Let us know what you think! Would you come to a 20 year KSYLF reunion? How are you willing to help to make it happen? 
The Big Question...  
Why should I be a leader?  
A small necklace laying in leaves and the necklace says Stop Wishing Start Doing  
Why should I lead? Well, I think a better question is... why not? Take a look at your community, our state, our nation, even our world. Do you like what you see? If not, then you have the power to change it. YOU can make a difference. In order to make that difference, though, and have an influence, you might have to step into a leadership role. You can do it... I promise you can!

At our KSYLF this summer, we challenged our delegates to "dare to lead!" Leadership is not easy. A lot of times, it is not simple either. But, if you take the chance, maybe get a little out of your comfort zone, then your leadership could make a huge difference. This world might just need your style of leadership or your personality. Maybe you have a skill that no one else can bring to the table. You might just do things or say things in a way that can impact people. But, you have to take that first step and decide that you are going to be a leader.

Please know that, at KYEA, we believe that leadership can be learned. You don't have to be a natural leader. You do have to have a desire to make a change, but, the rest of it can be learned. Leaders can impact people. Leaders can improve things. Leaders can inspire. Leaders can change the world! So, why not step up and lead? Our world, our state, and your community needs you! Go for it!
Spotlight On!
Being a Leader in Your Own Life  
Elijah Ray, Topeka   

Elijah Ray holding up his Employee of the Year award

Leadership can be demonstrated at work, at school, in the community, or just in someone's own personal life. Elijah Ray has shown leadership skills by taking positive steps in his own life AND at his job. Read on to find out how Elijah earned the title Employee of the Year and other ways that he steps up as a leader. 
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni  
Becoming a leader, whether it be in a position of power, or in everyday life, can be a challenging task. Elijah Ray of Topeka, makes leadership seem simple and easy. At age 24, Elijah is employed as a dishwasher at his local Golden Corral restaurant. He is a person who has lived experiences with bipolar and schizophrenia.

Elijah has been employed at Golden Corral for two to three years. He takes much pride in his work. He was recently awarded the local 2019 Golden Corral Employee of the Year. When asked about what it takes to become an employee of the year, Elijah said it's important to maintain in your job, get along well with staff members, and meet company expectations.

When thinking about what leadership means, Elijah has a clear understanding. A leader is "someone that leads the team and shares input on guidelines... someone that people can look up to," Elijah said. For anyone who is hoping to become a leader, Elijah encouraged them to work smart, not hard.

In his spare time, Elijah also helps out his Uncle William. He has been doing so for the last three years. Elijah assists his uncle by helping him prepare meals, distributing his medications, and bathing him.

Elijah plans on returning to Washburn Tech in January, where he will continue studying computer software. In the future, he hopes to work for a computer company where he can design software. Elijah keeps busy by writing songs, rapping, and making gaming videos for his YouTube channel. Check out Elijah's YouTube channel.

I would like to personally congratulate Elijah on becoming an employee of the year. I had a great time getting to know him during our short conversation. Keep up the great work, and I wish you the best of luck with all your future plans.  
People to Know About...
6 Leaders in Our Kansas Disability Community

by Dezarae Marcotte, ICON Alumna
What if I told you that, despite any disability you may have, you can be a leader? So often, we see and hear "inspirational" stories of someone with a disability doing something that is actually rather common. This creates the belief that people with disabilities are less capable of accomplishing their dreams and even changing the world. Every day, ordinary people, even those of us with a disability, have, on the inside of us, what it takes to do extraordinary things. Here are a few individuals in Kansas who are using their own leadership skills in their everyday life:

Stephanie West-Potter
Stephanie West Potter smilingStephanie has Bipolar and currently works for the Disability Rights Center of Kansas. She has devoted her life to advocating for those with mental health disabilities, and uses her own current and past struggles to speak with passion and boldness. Stephanie recently spoke at the Mental Health Coalition's day at the capitol. She has also done other various speaking events, including being a keynote speaker for the KSYLF Mentor Luncheon. In addition to all of the wonderful things that Stephanie does in her professional life, she is also a proud foster mom to two kids and is a great example to people both young and old.

Andrea Romero wearing sash and crown
Andrea Romero
First of all, let's give a round of applause to Andrea for being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kansas! Andrea, who has cerebral palsy, is a woman of her word. She uses her leadership skills to be an influence to the Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas, as well as many others. Andrea knows how to show appreciation to caregivers everywhere by educating other about her platform "Caring for the Caregiver," and speaks openly about her faith. A popular quote says "in a world where you can be anyone, be yourself."  From what I have read and heard about Andrea, it seems she truly is not afraid of being her authentic self, and authenticity is an important part of being a leader.

Mike Oxford
Mike Oxford speaking into a microphone Mike is a very well-known advocate across the nation who happens to live in Kansas! Mike has a physical disability and has been advocating for people with disabilities for the last 34 years. Mike recently retired after serving as the Executive Director for the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center for 24 years. Even in his retirement, he is still involved with TILRC. Mike co-founded Kansas ADAPT and is very involved with national ADAPT, which is an advocacy organization. Mike has advocated for so many different issues over the years and has served in various positions on boards, councils, etc. Last September, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Kansas Disability Caucus for his long-time commitment to equal rights for people with disabilities.

Rosie Cooper smiling
Rosie Cooper
Rosie doesn't let her disability of Graves Disease stop her from chasing after her dreams! Those who know Rosie will say that she is the type of person who sees the beauty and value in each young person that she meets. In the midst of any difficulty that she may be experiencing, Rosie still is there for her commitments and for those who need her. Rosie previously worked for the Kansas Association of Centers for Independent Living and the Resource Center for Independent Living, among many other jobs. She currently is a contractor with KYEA, facilitating Faces of Change, which is an advanced leadership program for young people with disabilities. Rosie is a walking example of what it means to be a leader.

Stephanie Sanford
Stephanie Sanford smiling Stephanie lives with a traumatic brain injury. She directs the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) and has been in this position for many years. The mission of SACK is to promote empowerment and independence for adults with developmental disabilities. Stephanie lives by that mission daily and is great at using her voice for advocacy! Stephanie has been a strong, important advocate in Kansas for many years. As part of her job, she coordinates an annual conference, participates in many community events, and helps to support self-advocate groups in areas across the state. She has been an emcee for various events and can always be counted on to show up and use her voice at advocacy rallies for people with disabilities.

Glen White smiling
Glen White
Another fantastic leader and advocate who recently retired after more than 30 years working for and with people with disabilities. Glen most recently worked as the Executive Director at KU's Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC-IL). He is a researcher and a teacher, serving as a professor at KU. Glen has also been involved in many national and state organizations, and has won various awards over the years. He has also been very involved in bringing together people with disabilities in the U.S. with those in other countries. Glen, who is a wheelchair user, is an encourager, an enthusiastic advocate, and a true leader who serves as an example for people with disabilities on how to live a full life.

There you have it! A list compiled of awesome leaders from Kansas, all who have disabilities. These are people that are saying no to excuses. These are people overcoming barriers. These are people impacting the lives of others. Would you like your name to be added to the list? Go, grow, and believe in yourself!
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- If you are in the Kansas City area and looking for a job, then you need to know about this resource! Disability Inclusion of Greater Kansas City has launched a new online job board for businesses and job seekers with disabilities to connect. The "Our Ability Connect" job board allows people to build a profile and search for job openings. It is free to build a profile. Visit the website 
- Families Together has many exciting events and opportunities coming up! Their statewide conference is in September and they are hosting a Transition to Adulthood Conference in October. See below for further details:
"Together We Can Learn" Statewide Conference
September 28
Overland Park, KS
This conference will include multiple dynamic keynote speakers, as well as many breakout sessions, including a sibling panel. Youth, parents, and families are all encourage to attend. Learn more 
"Transition to Adulthood" Team Empowerment Conference
October 5
Wichita, KS 
This training is designed to help youth, their families and others learn about the how to prepare for life after high school. The conference will include resources and the steps to take before and after leaving school including attending college, employment and living as independently as possible. Learn more 
Opportunities on a National Level

- The national Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) Conference is right around the corner, and you should consider attending! This conference is a large gathering of people with disabilities and others who work in the independent living field from across the nation. They even have a Youth Conference! This year's Youth Conference will take place on October 25 and the full APRIL Conference will be on October 26-28. The Conference will take place at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Learn more

- Do you want to learn employment soft skills, but also have fun while doing it? Check out this new game called The Art of Active Listening. This is a game on the web, created by the Center on Technology and Disability, that helps students with disabilities learn to listen and get prepared for a job someday. Scenarios presented include the interview process, getting started on the job, on the job experiences, and standing up for yourself on the job. Play the game

- Nominate someone for AAPD's Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Awards! The American Association of People with Disabilities recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who demonstrate leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two winners will each receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing project or initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities. Applications are due by October 2, 2019. Learn more

- Would you like to honor an outstanding teacher, transition specialist, employer, or other professional in the transition field? The CEC Division on Career Development and Transition (DCDT) is accepting nominations for awards given to people who have made outstanding contributions in the field of secondary education and transition for students with disabilities. Awards will be presented during the 2019 DCDT International Conference in Seattle, Washington. Learn more

- A new fact sheet that addresses sexual harassment and students with disabilities has been released. The "Survivor Justice Is Disability Justice" fact sheet is a new tool to educate the public about the issues that impact people with disabilities who are survivors of sexual harassment and assault at all levels of education. Read the fact sheet

- Career and technical education is possible for students with disabilities. If you'd like to learn more about this, then participate on Association for Career & Technical Education webinar series "CTE for Students with Disabilities." This five-part series is directed toward CTE professionals and special education staff that support CTE. Learn more
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Keep up to date on the latest KYEA happenings, help us connect with you, and meet other youth with disabilities around the state!


Be on the lookout for our next issue that will come out in November!
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.
Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy
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Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
Faces of Change 2019 Class Going Strong! 
Faces of Change logo with a face that has arrows around it
Another class of our Faces of Change program kicked off in August! We currently have 9 team members who are fantastic emerging leaders, ready to take their skills to the next level. This class of team members are from the Kansas City area to Topeka, from Hutchinson to Wichita. There are two things that they all have in common... the fact that they have disabilities and their desire to be better leaders.
The first weekend of the 2019 session occurred on August 2-4. This year's Faces of Change is taking place at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. The program kicked off with orientation and a focus on the topic of "Job Description of a Leader." Next month, team members will learn all about how to "P.A.V.E. the Way," which includes learning about purpose, authenticity, values, and emotion.
With the awesome youth who are a part of the program this year, we look forward to much more leadership exploration and personal growth in each team member!
KS Youth Leadership Forum Seeking 2020 Applicants!  
KSYLF dove logo It's that time again! KYEA is currently searching for potential youth leaders to attend our 20th Annual Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF). Are you a youth with a disability who has an interest in leadership, who wants to become a better advocate, or who would like to meet other youth leaders with disabilities? Then consider applying to the KSYLF! The 2020 KSYLF will be held July 6-11 at Washburn University in Topeka.
All students who are interested in attending the KSYLF must meet the following criteria:
- reside in Kansas
- have a disability as defined with the Americans With Disabilities Act
- be in the 11th or 12th grade, or in an 18-21 transition program, as of December 31, 2019
- have demonstrated leadership potential in school and/or the community

Interested students must fill out an application that will be reviewed through a competitive selection process. The application deadline for the 2020 forum is December 15, 2019.

Don't miss out on this amazing week of empowerment, leadership growth, new experiences, and making new friends! 
We are currently hiring for a new staff member to coordinate our Empower Me workshops in collaboration with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Our Employment Specialist position is available. Check it out!

Madonna- a fluffy white poodle wearing a pink and purple bow
Madonna's Corner!

Our therapeutic manager realizes that she is a leader!     

Madonna just thought that a lead was a leash, but she realized that it is way more than that. Read below for examples of how our very own therapeutic manager shows leadership skills each day... 
Did you know that the word leash is also called a "lead?" So, when my mommy asked me to write a story about leading, I didn't know how I was going to write a whole article about my leash!! Dogs (even adorable ones like me) do not lead, we follow. In between my long naps, potty breaks, and biting my nails worrying about writing this, I realized that I DO lead. My tail is wagging just thinking about it!

- When humans visit, I have a high pitched whine, and I do jumping jacks so that my mommy knows someone is here. Leading = communication.

- When humans eat, I stand really close to them. If any crumbs fall, I am right there licking up the mess.  Leading = initiative.

- I jump in the laps of humans, and I roll on my back with my legs in the air. Humans react by showing their teeth and talking to me in a whiney baby voice. Since I show my pearly whites when I am happy, I am guessing humans are happy too. Leading = supporting others.

- Sometimes, when humans give me treats, I bury them and put them away. I see my mom put away food all the time, and I figure I am doing the same. Leading = responsibility.

I lead all the time! Well, maybe not that time last week when I peed in Carrie's office... Oops.

Have a Wagulous (fabulous) day!
Are you starting college?
Are you nervous? Read this!
One of our very own Faces alumna, Whit Downing, recently got published in The Mighty, a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities. Congrats Whit! This article was so fitting for our newsletter issue, we couldn't pass up including it. Check out this encouraging message of how students with disabilities really can succeed in college!
Whit's going to college poster with various motivational things on it  
"Dear Person With Autism Who Is Starting College"
by Whit Downing, Faces of Change Alumna '17
"Dear You,

First, I want to tell you how proud I am of you for making the decision to go to college. I know that after high school, even the mere thought of pursuing a higher-level education can be extremely intimidating.

I am autistic and just finished my second semester of college. To sum up my thoughts about my experience thus far, I'd say this: 'It has not been easy, but it has, without a doubt, been worth it.'

Most college classes are set to begin within the next month August. If you are anything like me and so many others, I am sure you are feeling rather afraid right now. Especially those of you who are starting your first semester. I have good news for you. In my experience, as each semester passes, it does get easier."
A Unique Journey to Leadership  
Local youth finds her passion in building a Mary Kay business  
by Lindsey Moszeter, Faces of Change team member 

Lindsey smiling for the camera with a floral outfit on
A woman on a mission fighting against the odds is a woman who believes she can and then does. When I became a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant, my ability to see my disabilities as a positive helped me overcome challenges and allowed me to become a leader in a company that only supports women who have belief in themselves and others.

Being a 20 year old in 2014 with sight and hearing disabilities that have been sustained since birth, obtaining a job was not an easy feat at the time. One evening, in September of 2014, my mom and I attended a Mary Kay event that, at the time, our neighbor had invited us to. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey that would, not only change my life for the better, but would also inspire  and change other's lives as well. I began taking the tools and information that my mentor and the Mary Kay company provided me with and using them. Within a 7-month span, a new system was created, from taking in-person facials and skin care parties to the online world that only amplified the way the company was designed back in 1963. This not only allowed me to live my life with passion, accommodations, and purpose that fit with my disabilities, but, becoming my own boss allowed for me to use my disabilities as ABILITIES to create a clientele base in 18 different states, as well as become a leader to 3+ other women to look up to who would become their own bosses in a way that uniquely fits their lives as well.
Fast forward to the present, I never would have imagined that a young woman with disabilities would be leading a team into success with big dreams and goals regardless of what cards my team might be dealt. Being a leader not only gave me confidence to live unapologetically; it gave me a purpose that is still continuing to be fulfilled.
The Face of a Leader
Faces of Change alumna shares lessons learned about leadership

by Ashlee Thao, Faces of Change Alumna '18 and KSYLF Alumna '17

Ashlee Thao smiling When you think of leadership, what picture comes to your mind? I know that, for me, leaders come in the example of people like Martin Luther King Jr., my private piano teacher, and my mother. No matter who comes up most in my thoughts, though, I find that a leader takes many forms and comes in various shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. It's hard to say for sure exactly what the definition of a leader is to everyone, but, after attending KYEA's leadership program, Faces of Change, this is what I've come to know.

A leader is someone like you and me, an ordinary person, who, one day, decides to make a change in the world and starts something that impacts people. It could be something like the #MeToo movement or starting a neighborhood cookout to get people talking, but, regardless of what the event is, it influences people and makes them think and act in a different way. It may seem like a simple definition to a seemingly complex word, but bear in mind what that says about leaders. It means that they have the courage to make the change, and it shows that leadership isn't easy.

After that definition, you might be thinking, wow, I don't know if leadership is my thing. Don't worry, you're not alone. When I first got connected to the Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy and later got involved with Faces of Change, I had the exact same thought. Remember how I said leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities? Well, let me explain that a little bit more, and maybe you'll find leading others isn't as complicated as you think...
A Different View... the Many Sides of Leadership
As Ashlee clearly explained above, leadership can come in so many different forms. It can look different to each person. You don't have to be the President of every club or be the most outgoing person in the world. If you are, great! But, there are lots of other ways to show leadership. Read on as Johnna gives examples of ways to demonstrate leadership AND make yourself an even better leader!  
by Johnna Godinez, KYEA Program Assistant  

Paper boats with one red boat leading out in front the many blue boats behind it   
What are some alternative tips to show leadership? Well, read below and perhaps you'll want to try a couple this next school year! Maybe even pick one of these things and write a brand new goal for yourself!

- Where's the Windex? - Keep your room, backpack, locker, and desk clean! Research has found that clutter stresses us all out.

- The power of a thank you - Begin to thank those who help you on a daily basis for assisting you. You'd be surprised to learn the impact that a sincere thank you may have on another person.

- Be friendly - Invite the new kid at school, church, or at work, etc., to sit by you at lunch, join you in conversations with your friends, or participate in another fun activity.

- Volunteer - This is as simple as helping someone with something they need help with or a full-fledged volunteer job at the local animal shelter, etc.   

- State your opinion in front of others - Would you rather state your opinion or be frustrated that nothing is changing? Use your voice even though it can be scary.

- Join a club - This is an obvious way to get involved. Pick a club at school or in the community, like Scouts, 4-H, etc.

- Raise your hand in class - This is a bold move, but I know you can do it!

- Be in charge of your IEP meeting - Your IEP is all about you, so we think you should lead it.

- Ask for help - My opinion is, if you haven't figured it out in five minutes, then ask for help. You can pick the timeframe, but don't be afraid to ask for help.

- Organize your time - Use a paper planner, an app on your phone, or calendars to record your assignments/tasks, due dates, and for a reminder list. This is a good first step in being a leader.

- Make your own doctor appointments - Talk about one giant step into adulthood! Be sure to also actually attend the appointments too.

- Be grateful for your life - This may seem simple, but, for some of us, this may be a daily challenge. You are alive, so I say that there is much to be grateful for!
Question of the Month
What is the most important quality in a leader?
quotation mark
Being able to step into a new role where you can learn just as much as the people you lead. 
- Tagan Trahoon, KSYLF Alumni '11

Kindness and strength. 
- Dayna Rucker, KSYLF Alumna '09

Listening! In order for others to respect you as a leader, they want to feel respected by being heard. 
- Danielle Willcott, KSYLF Alumna '07

Respect and honesty. A leader needs these top 2 qualities for any given situation. 
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11

A leader must be able to include every person in their quotation markmission and goals. 
- Taylor Boykin, KSYLF Alumni '08
Community Power!
Circle with different types of disability logos
Highlighting helpful resources throughout the state
Do you ever have a question about what the law says regarding equal rights for people with disabilities? Are you sometimes unsure if your rights have been violated? There is an agency right here in Kansas that can help! This month, Gabe Mullen helps us understand the ins and outs of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas and how they can help you.

by Gabe Mullen, Faces of Change Alumni '18 and KSYLF Alumni '16      

Individuals with disabilities can achieve great things. Yet navigating the laws designed to protect us can constitute significant barriers for many.
That's where the non-profit agency the Disability Rights Center (DRC) of Kansas, and other Protection & Advocacy (P&A) organizations, come in. In contrast with Centers for Independent Living, which give people the tools to live independently, the DRC helps clients navigate disability related laws. P&As, like the DRC, also provide legal representation to Kansans with disabilities for their disability rights issues. Each state has one designated P&A, and they all work to provide legal assistance for people with disabilities, including youth. 
I spoke to Dallas Hathaway, who works at the DRC as a disability advocate, meaning he "gets phone calls from people claiming discrimination, gathers information about the situation, and talks to attorneys." Hathaway himself was a beneficiary of the DRC's services. When he saw a job opening, he jumped at the chance to be a resource for others.  
According to Hathaway, the DRC receives several federal grants enabling them to handle different legally-based advocacy service categories, such as access to social security benefits, VR counseling, Assistive Technology, Medicaid denials, ADA claims, responding to abuse, and  assistance with special education related issues, including post-secondary transition. DRC has twenty staff, including eight disability advocates and six attorneys, who supervise the legal guidance advocates provide to clients, and provide direct legal services to clients. In most cases, however, clients speak exclusively to an advocate, who works at the direction of the attorney and guides them through their case. While the DRC is located in Topeka, it serves the entire state of Kansas. According to Hathaway, advocates will travel to meet their clients if need be. 
The DRC can be reached toll free at 877-776-1541 and [email protected]. Their website is For those outside of Kansas who wish to contact their state's P&A, or if the person with a disability lives in another state, please go to
Blue calendar
CIL Calendar
Want to get involved with your local CIL? Here are exciting upcoming opportunities:

It will be Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) season very soon! DMD is a national program that is hosted locally and focuses on employment for people with disabilities, providing job shadowing opportunities and other learning experiences. Many centers for independent living throughout the state are helping to coordinate local DMD events. Below is information on the DMD events planned for this October. Stay tuned, as there will be more announcements about DMD's that will happen in November or December.  
Prairie Independent Living Resource Center
Disability Mentoring Day in Hutchinson
October 16 
Disability Mentoring Day in Pratt-
October 22 
For more information, contact Anthony Frischenmeyer at [email protected].  
Three Rivers
Disability Mentoring Day in Wamego-
October 22 
Disability Mentoring Day in Junction City-
October 23 (tentative) 
Disability Mentoring Day in Atchison-
October 24 (tentative) 
For more information, contact Julie Sack Rider at 785-456-9915, ext.119 .
Resource Center for Independent Living
Disability Mentoring Day in El Dorado-
November 14
Butler County Community College
For more information, contact Macy Collins at [email protected] or 316-322-7853  
*To have your CIL's event dates listed in future issues, contact Johnna at [email protected].