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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #30
February 2015
in this issue
:: Meet our new ICONs
:: African American Leaders with Disabilities
:: Did You Know...?
:: Spotlight On: Jordan and Jessica Calderon
:: Get Out and Meet New People
:: Youth Ability of the Month: Valentines by ICONs
:: KYEA Updates
:: Top 10 Fun Activities for Couples with Disabilities
:: Full Scoop on Relationships and Dating
:: Question of the Month
:: State and National Opportunities

flowers and chocolate Welcome to winter... finally! Hope you all are surviving the freezing cold temperatures and snow throughout the state. Instead of going out in the cold, we have been working hard in the KYEA office! As always, we have lots of things going on, so get the full scoop below.

We couldn't pick just one main topic to focus on in this newsletter, so we picked two. It's February, so we couldn't overlook the topic of relationships and love. BUT, this month is also Black History Month! Did you know that the disability rights movement stemmed from the civil rights movement? Our community owes a lot to African Martin Luther King Jr boldly speaking with his hand in the airAmerican leaders who paved the way for advocacy. With this in mind, our newsletter is full of articles on both topics mentioned above.

There is also lots of state and national events and opportunities coming up, so don't miss out on those!

Curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy our February newsletter!

- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator 
Meet our new ICONs!
We have two new youth interns in the KYEA office! Learn all about them below...


Jordan Byerly


nail polish Age: 18 1/2


Education: 18/21 program at Washburn Rural High School 


Disability: Medical  


Favorite thing about being an ICON:  

Making a powerpoint. 


Favorite hobbies: Doing nail designs and making charms on my Rainbow Loom Kit.


Brittany Reynolds


drawing with a pencil Age: 18 


Education: Senior at Washburn Rural High School


Disability: Anxiety 


Favorite thing about being an ICON: 

The support I am able to receive.


Favorite hobbies: Special effects makeup, makeup, video games, drawing, and writing.  

February is Black History Month!
"For Africa to me... is more than a glamorous fact.  It is a historical truth.  No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place."
~ Maya Angelou
Making Their Mark: African American People with Disabilities Who Have Impacted History
There have been so many amazing people who are African American in our history. Did you know that many of them had disabilities? Read below about five people who have had a great impact on our history, and some who are still leaders today... 
Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman

Ms. Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and during the American Civil War, a Union spy. Born into slavery, she escaped and made about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry and, in the post-war era, advocated for women's suffrage.

James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones (speech disability)   

Not just the current spokesperson for Arby's restaurants, but he is the voice of the seminal "bad guy" in the Star Wars saga...Darth Vader.  James Earl Jones was born in Alabama, but raised in Michigan by his grandparents.  He served in the Korean War and returned to start his amazing acting career in film, stage, and television. As a youth, he chose not to speak as he had a severe speech disability that, to this day, causes him to stutter. His high school English teacher challenged Mr. Jones to recite aloud a self-authored poem. He recited it without stuttering. Mr. Jones is currently in his eighties and maintains a very busy career.

Claudia Gordan Claudia Gordan

Ms. Gordon is the first lawyer who is deaf, African American, and female, and also the first student who is deaf to graduate from the American University (AU) Washington College of Law, in Washington, DC. At AU, she specialized in disability rights law and policy. Since earning her juris doctorate from AU, Ms. Gordan has been active in working to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are respected. She currently works as the Public Engagement Advisor for the Disability Community in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House.

Herschel Walker Herschel Walker  (dissociative identity disability)
Mr. Walker was given the designation of being the second best collegiate football player in history by the Collegiate Hall of Fame. He earned this by having set a new freshman rushing record at the University of Georgia and won the Heisman in 1982. He also played professionally for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He set more records in his professional career too. During his high school career, Mr. Walker participated in three sports, maintained an A average, and graduated as the valedictorian. Mr. Walker experienced extreme bullying as a youth.

Barbara Jordan Barbara Jordan 
(Multiple Sclerosis) 

Though no longer with us, Barbara Jordan played a critical part in the advancement of African American women with disabilities in her lifetime. Born to a poor Baptist preacher's family in segregated Houston, Texas in 1936, Ms. Jordan earned a law degree from Boston College, was the first African American woman elected to the Texas legislature, and served as the first female in the U.S. House of Representatives (1972-1976) from the Deep South. During the Watergate trials, Ms. Jordan was a prominent member of those who presided over those judicial hearings.  Ms. Jordan worked towards solving civil rights issues; the Equal Rights Amendment; racial discrimination policies, and establishing the voting rights of non-English speakers. 
Did you know...
The disability rights movement stemmed from the civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks sitting on a bus with a white man sitting behind her Had it not been for the many people who are African American who fought for equality and showed the importance of advocacy, we, as people with disabilities, would not be where we are at today! The civil rights movement occurred mostly during the 50s and 60s. People with disabilities saw how hard that the African American community fought to have access to transportation, services, and employment. They too wanted full access in their communities, so they began speaking up for equality. Many people with disabilities saw how Rosa Parks went against rules and rode in the front of the bus. People with physical disabilities, at that time, couldn't even get on Wade Blank in front of US flag with ADAPT shirt the bus due to it being inaccessible. They knew, though, that this could be changed if they advocated like Rosa Parks did. A very important man in our disability history, Wade Blank, even knew and travelled with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both the disability rights movement and civil rights movement had a similar focus of gaining equality for all and changing people's perceptions of those who are "different" from the norm.


To learn more about how the disability rights movement came out of the civil rights movement, as well as more about Black History Month, visit the links below.

Spotlight On! 
Jordan and Jessica Calderon, Dodge City


Jessica and Jordan

Hear firsthand one couple's story about dating, marriage, and now having a baby! We asked Jessica, KSYLF Alumna '12, and her husband, Jordan, to share about their journey to love and how disability plays a part in their marriage. Read on...
How and when did you both first meet?

BOTH: We both had a mutual friend that believed she was the best match maker and gave each other our phone numbers. We texted and talked on the phone from June of 2012 and finally built up the courage to meet face to face four months later.

What did you like about the other person? What attracted you to them?
JESSICA: When I first met Jordan, he was so nervous and sweet which I adored. His looks were definitely attracting to me; his long blond hair, bright blue eyes, and the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.
JORDAN: I liked the fact that Jessica was so sweet and her eyes attracted me most. Beautiful.

What do you like best about being married?
JESSICA: I love having my best friend there always through thick and thin and to know I can always come home to a warm hug.
JORDAN: I like being able to talk to Jessica about anything and knowing I will always have someone by my side.


How do you as a couple work through conflicts in your marriage?
BOTH: We have learned the best way to deal with a disagreement is to sit down and talk through it. Our talks involve no pointing fingers and what we feel we could do better to make the disagreement not happen again. Sitting down and talking about it is not always easy but when you love someone you always want to make it work.

How do you think having a baby will impact your lives?


We believe little Adalynn will bring us closer as a couple and give us a chance to spend time together as a family. 


Read the full interview 

First thing's first... get out and meet new people!

Diverse group of youth hanging out at a dance Are you having trouble with knowing where to meet new people? Whether you are looking for someone to date or just wanting to make new friends, you have to get out of your house to meet people! There are a ton of options for you. Pick a couple that you are most comfortable with and go for it! You might just meet some great people. Here are just a few suggestions:
  • Sports events
  • Internet dating sites
  • Coffee shop
  • Go to a party
  • Speed dating
  • Community events
  • Your job
  • Conferences
  • The gym
  • Church
  • Join a club
  • School
  • The park
  • Sports teams
  • Volunteering
  • Advocacy events
  • Friends of friends
  • Bookstores
  • The Library
  • Bars
  • The mall
  • Comedy clubs
  • Concerts

To learn more about meeting people, view the "How to Meet People" article.

Youth Ability of the Month  

Celebrating the unique talents of our youth across the state!
Valentine's of all different colors and shapes
Valentine Crafts by KYEA ICON Interns and Staff (you're never too old to do crafts!)
Click the picture above to see it up close
Facebook logo, a blue square with a white lowercase Check Us Out on Facebook!
Keep up to date on the latest KYEA happenings, help us connect with you, and meet other youth with disabilities around the state!


Be on the lookout for our next issue that will come out in April!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA, and consider donating, by going to our website at!

Let us know what you think about our newsletter! If there is anything that we can do to make our newsletter more accessible to you, please call us at 785-215-6655 so we can make the change for next time.

Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy

KYEA Updates

Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...


KYEA to Host Weekend Workshop on Employment and Independent Living in Wichita 
It's My Life logo Are you ready for the future? Do you want to be employed and live on your own someday? Well, we can get you started on the path to your future and help you learn how to take charge of your life! KYEA is partnering with the Independent Living Resource Center to host a one-day weekend workshop called "It's My Life!" The "It's My Life!" workshop is part of our new Empower Me! Series that we will be taking across the state. Our next stop... Wichita!

The "It's My Life!" workshop will take place on Saturday, March 28 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It will be held at the Independent Living Resource Center in Wichita. This workshop is open to youth with disabilities, ages 15-24, who live in the Wichita area.

Come and spend a day with KYEA staff and your peers and learn all about how to live independently and get employed! Hear from speakers, participate in group discussions, meet other youth with disabilities, and enjoy hands on activities, food, prizes, and more. KYEA will give you the tools to be more prepared for your future.

This workshop is free. To attend, you must fill out a registration form. Registrations are due by Friday, March 6, 2015.

Register today!

Get Great Deals at Local Restaurants: Give Back to KYEA!
discount with arrow pointing down Do you like to eat out and have fun? Would you like a little discount from places in your town? KYEA is currently selling discount cards as a fundraiser. The cards are good in Topeka, Lawrence, or Wichita (must specify which one) and include discounts to restaurants and a few other businesses. Each card is $20.00, and a portion of all proceeds come to KYEA. Interested in purchasing a card? Just call us up at 785-215-6655.
February is also the month of LOVE!
"Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow."
~ Swedish Proverb
Top 10 Fun Activities for Couples with Disabilities
Dallas and Alana There are so many different activities that couples can enjoy together. But, what if you both have disabilities? This may present a unique situation to be creative about things that you can enjoy doing together. Real life couple, Dallas and Alana, share 10 possible fun activities based on their own experiences... 
by Dallas Hathaway and Alana Foster  

10. Cleaning 
This task is usually dreadful. But, if you have a little help from someone you enjoy spending time with, then chances are this could be a fun activity. Put on some upbeat music, work together, and the cleaning will be finished before you know it.

9. Cooking 
Who doesn't like eating an awesome home cooked meal? Whether it's reinventing a classic like peanut butter and jelly or making a steak, couples can have a blast in the kitchen. If cooking is not your style, a Food Network marathon works just as well!
8. Shopping 
You might have difficulty finding the right gift for that special someone. Head off to the mall and find the quirkiest gift you can for under $10. Your partner will certainly be pleased with the on-budget surprise.

7. Board Games 
This is a great activity for a snowy day, or even a cheap date night. Pop some popcorn and figure out who can buy out the other while playing Monopoly. If you like word games, Scrabble is a fun option too.

6. Getting Exercise 
Getting exercise is always important. Whether it's taking your chair for a spin, lifting some weights, or even going to the local rec center, couples can be great at motivating one another to stay active and have fun while doing it.

5. Spending Time with Friends 
One of the great ways for couples to get to know each other is to merge their social circles. This allows couples the opportunity to expand their friend base and get acquainted with people who are important to their significant other.

4. Adaptive Activities 
This is another way couples with disabilities can participate in activities together. Some of these can include anything from skiing, basketball, hockey, or anything in-between. Adaptive activities not only allow couples the opportunity to stay active and competitive, but they can also add a sense of adventure to the relationship.

3. Volunteering 
Giving back to the community allows people to choose the cause they feel is most important to them. From volunteering at the local animal shelter, to helping out at a community garden, there are a variety of ways for those of all abilities to make their community a better place.

2. Helping Each Other 
Typically those with disabilities face a unique set of obstacles in everyday life. Dating a person with a similar set of circumstances allows for a shared understanding of what it means to not only have a disability, but also how to adapt.

1. Traveling 
Traveling with a disability can be a somewhat frustrating yet rewarding experience. Before traveling, it is important to determine what adaptations are required for a smooth travel experience. Traveling gives couples the opportunity to see each other in a different environment and experience something new together.
The Full Scoop on Relationships and Dating!
Helpful articles to get you thinking.. .

"In the age of interracial, transgender, and trans-generational dating, why is it still so easy to get a little freaked when you find yourself attracted to someone with a physical disability? The answer lies with the many false assumptions and negative stereotypes about people in wheelchairs that continue to be prevalent in our society."

"Youth with disabilities can have a hard time finding information about topics like dating, relationships, and sex. Being informed helps you build the kind of social life you want. Find someone you can trust, talk with, and from whom you can learn what you need to know!"

"Many young adults with disabilities are looking for ways to meet other people and start dating. I know a lot of young adults have trouble finding people to date that they can meet in person, so online dating becomes an option. Here are my tips for healthy, fun online dating!"

"As a single Manhattanite, my overarching advice is simply to put yourself out there "on the market." As a psychologist, I can say that the key to making this happen successfully is to change your perception of yourself.  Digesting and internalizing some of my favorite tips can help you successfully integrate into the oh-so popular dating scene."

"According to Maurice Snell, everyone brings baggage into a new relationship, but he wants to make one thing clear: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) isn't baggage at all. Although autism may affect social skill development, it hasn't affected Maurice's ability to date and find love as an adult."

Question of the Month 

How does your disability affect your romantic relationships?
quotation mark
How personal should I be in my response? Anyways, I married someone without a physical disability so naturally it was a learning curve for her and I. I believe the best way to enjoy a romantic time is to be okay in your own skin and do not be afraid to experiment. Each person is with different needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all. The truth is we ALL want to be treated with respect, loved, and at most, with companionship.
- Brian Gano, KSYLF Alumni '04

A person with a disability as unique as mine, you've got to understand where your boundaries lie and then keep to your boundaries. Don't be afraid to say no when you feel uncomfortable. Romantic relationships are supposed to be enjoyable, respected and comfortable.
- Allison Wilkes, ICON Alumna

Relationship or not, when I find the right gal for me, I want her traits to be caring, faithful and loyal to me no matter what happens. But I want that special gal to accept me for what I am for me.
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11

I have brachial plexus palsy, so my central nervous system is damaged and effects my right side. It makes it difficult to date because men get embarrassed when my muscles have spasms and cause me to often jerk my body to prevent from falling. I never hear back after the first date.
- Tinisha Floyd

I think my autism affects my romantic relationships because I know that sometimes I don't always understand how much space to give the significant other or how much affection I should  be giving. Because of this, my relationships only last quotation markonly about 2 weeks.
- Corey Boehmer, KSYLF Alumni '12
News and Events


Opportunities in Kansas


- The ADA Legacy Tour is coming to Kansas! This travelling exhibit on disability history will be in Topeka on March 18. This is an event not to be missed! Celebrate 25 years of the ADA by coming out to view the exhibit, hear from speakers, and have some lunch. Get the full details 


- UPCOMING ADVOCACY DAYS! These are great opportunities to advocate for your community and meet others with your disability. Upcoming dates include:


March 4- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day at the Capitol

March 12- Mental Health Advocacy Day at the Capitol


- Families Together will be hosting their annual "Together We Can Learn" statewide conference on April 11 in Topeka. The Conference will be held alongside the Autism Summit. Families of youth with disabilities and professionals are encouraged to attend! Sign up for the conference

- Do you have an interest in taking piano lessons? Angel Shaver teaches piano lessons in El Dorado and can teach people of all ages, with and without disabilities. She has taught people who can only use one hand and can even enlarge sheet music for those with visual disabilities. For more information, contact her at

- Paws for Freedom is a group in Tonganoxie that trains service dogs and provides animal assisted therapy to youth with learning disabilities. They are having a training camp in June. Interested? Learn more


- The Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities now has a Facebook page! Keep up to date with them at



Opportunities on a National Level


The ADA Program is seeking the next generation of disability advocates! The Advocates in Disability Award (ADA) program awards and encourages a young adult with a disability between the ages of 14 and 26 who is dedicated to positively affecting the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Young leaders with a disability are encouraged to apply for up to $10,000 in funding. Learn more

- Are you proud to be a person with autism? A youth advocate in another state is putting together an autistic culture project. She needs your help for the project to be a success. Learn more 


- VSA is presenting a unique opportunity for student-artists with disabilities from around the world to display their artwork in an online exhibition. A selection will be chosen for a live exhibition in Washington D.C.! "Yo Soy...Je Suis...I Am... The Future" invites youth with disabilities to imagine their future and make some artwork! Learn more 


Think College is holding a series of webinars on various topics related to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. Upcoming webinars in March and May will focus on Inclusive Campus Communities and Vocational Rehabilitation Support. Learn more  

- Are you a young person with a limb loss or limb difference? Then, there is a camp for you! The Amputee Coalition's Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp is a 5-day traditional summer camp experience for children ages 10-17 who have lost arms and/or legs or who were born with limb differences. Check it out



Kohl's Department Stores is accepting nominations for the 2015 Kohl's Cares Scholarships, an annual program that recognizes youth between the ages of 6 and 18 who, through their voluntarism, have had a positive impact on their communities. Winners will be chosen based on the benefits and outcomes of their volunteer service. Learn more 


The VSA/Rosemary Kennedy Scholarship is looking for theatre artists with disabilities. This scholarship is given to students ages 18-22 with a passion for theatre and strong desire to pursue it as a career. This year, four scholarships are available for students with disabilities. Learn more   


- People with disabilities should have equal access to healthcare. Watch the "What You Need to Know" video to learn all about your rights with medical examinations.


- AbleData project has released three new information products focusing on assistive technology. Check these out:
AT for Parenting with a Disability
Make Your Own Tech Still Works for Many
Voting Success for People with Disabilities 


- Check out this great new resource on parenting for someone who has a traumatic brain injury: Parenting for Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) 


- Are you enrolled or thinking about enrolling in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace for your health insurance? If you have questions or are confused, the NDNRC is here to help you. They have created fact sheets for different populations, including youth with disabilities. View the fact sheets 


- This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act! Learn all about this law by attending the National ADA Symposium in Georgia. Learn more