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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #41
August 2017
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: KS Youth Leadership Forum Hosts 18 Youth Leaders
:: Leaders Recognized at Mentor Luncheon
:: Accommodations Make You Equal
:: Spotlight On: Ashlee Thao
:: From Another Perspective: Accommodations in College
:: Funding Sources for Assistive Technology
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA Completes 8th EMS Workshop
:: "Relationships 411" Workshop Rescheduled in Iola
:: Schizophrenia Support Group
:: Accommodations and You: Here's an IDEA!
:: The Many Sides of Accommodations
:: Technology At It's Best!
:: Community Power: Delaware Valley CIL in Horton

Girl with school book writing Back to School on the wall
The school year has already started? Wait... what!? We cannot believe that the summer has already gone by and that students are back to classes for a new school year. Time flies when you're having fun! And man did we have a busy, fun summer at KYEA!

Since June, KYEA has hosted another EMS workshop, our 17th KSYLF, and has continued monthly sessions with our 2017 Faces of Change class. Needless to say, we have been busy! Read below for a recap of all of our programs occurring this summer. And join us in welcoming new youth and volunteers into our KYEA family!

As you probably guessed, this is our BACK TO SCHOOL issue. We wanted to help prepare you for a great year, and, for students with disabilities, a successful year often includes accommodations. So, this issue is focused completely on accommodations! We have stories of high school and college students who use accommodations. We also have articles on types of accommodations, exciting assistive technology, and a full explanation of your rights as a student with a disability. Remember, accommodations don't make you weird; they make you equal!

Happy August everyone! Have a great kick off to the school year!

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

As I think back to my high school and early college days, I remember how the first day of school was always exciting.  I had my outfit picked out; my new book bag was ready to go; and I had my list of classes just in case I forgot where I needed to go.  I was a girl with a plan!  Except, I would conveniently ignore one crucial detail... the accommodations I needed to succeed in school. 

Let me clarify, I had all of my accommodations set up with the school official, as well as bringing along my magnifying glass, cane, and recorder.  The thing is, I either did not request my accommodations when I needed them, or I would leave my magnifying glass, cane, and recorder neatly tucked away in my book bag.  I did this because I did not want my accommodations to bring attention to me.  What I did not realize, at the time, was that my desire to fit in during that moment was hurting my future success.  By hiding the tools I needed to succeed in high school, I thought I was able to hide my disability from the world... boy was I wrong!  Because I was not using the accommodations that would make me successful in college, at the end of my first year, I was put on academic probation and almost flunked out.

So here is the deal- can you eat graceful without utensils?  Can you drive your car if you left your car keys on the kitchen counter?  Can you go out and have fun or pay your bills if you have no cash?  Of course NOT!  My second year of college, I figured out that I wouldn't be able to get the job I wanted without a college degree.  I wouldn't be able to get a college degree without good grades and sure as heck couldn't get good grades without using my accommodations.  The moral of the story is... use the tools you have today to succeed today.  Don't hide from the world.  Be proud of who you are.
Kansas Youth Leadership Forum Hosts 18 Youth Leaders!
Delegates learn to be themselves and grow as leaders in the community   
Delegates at the 2017 KSYLF take a photo with Governor Brownback in the Capital
The 2017 KSYLF delegates pose for a group photo in the Capital rotunda with Governor Sam Brownback during the Day at the Capital.
Be Yourself. Such a short, but powerful statement. This year, at the 2017 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF), delegates were given permission, and encouraged, to just BE THEMSELVES. And that is exactly what they did! Eighteen delegates from across the state were able to spend the week celebrating their talents, personalities, leadership traits, and disabilities with a theme of "UBU." Delegates learned about advocacy, goal setting, communication, disability awareness and history, and resources during this 17th annual Forum. They also learned the importance of being authentic and how this impacts leadership. Ultimately, they came away with the realization that they are a part of a bigger community- the disability community.

KSYLF dove logo This year's KSYLF was held on July 10 - 15, 2017 at Washburn University in Topeka. Eighteen spirited, sincere young leaders with disabilities attended the Forum. There were 20 staff members present throughout the week, including seven KSYLF alumni who returned to serve as volunteers and share their experiences.

The KSYLF week was very memorable for all involved! It was full of great laughter, bonding moments, budding friendships, and leadership growth. The delegates celebrated each other and began to also celebrate their uniqueness as people with disabilities. At the graduation ceremony on the last day, many delegates shared just how much KSYLF had changed them and given them a new family. This new family has continued communicating in the weeks since KSYLF and delegates have already started talking about wanting a reunion for their 2017 group!

Delegates and volunteers at the 2017 KSYLF take a photo with Governor Brownback in the Capital KSYLF had many great speakers this year, including our Mentor Luncheon keynote speaker, Mallory Cyr from Denver, CO. Mallory has been involved in the advocacy and health policy field for the past 10 years and is a widely respected presenter and leader in the disability community. Her story of gaining independence inspired our youth to know that they too can be successful and independent.
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.

Taylor Boykin in his graduation outfit and holding his cap that says faith, strength, and perseverance
The Justin Cosco Award was presented to Taylor Boykin, 2008 KSYLF Alumni, who has supported KYEA in many ways since his time as a delegate and has also been accomplishing many of his goals. Taylor recently graduated from Emporia State University with a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and is working on becoming a sports analyst.

Larry Hannan speaks to the audience after receiving his award The Spirit of Hope Award, in memory of John Peterson, was given to Larry Hannan of Wamego. Larry is an advocate for his son, but also promotes employment of people with disabilities by hiring many young adults to work in his Operations Department within USD 320.

Kimberly Shepherd smiles as she holds her award plaque The Mentoring Matters Award was given to Kimberly Shepherd, also of Wamego. Kimberly manages the Oz Museum and places many students from USD 320 in job positions at the Museum. She has mentored various youth in this position and has helped them learn new job skills.
A change that helps a student with a disability learn the same material and meet the same expectations as their classmates. Accommodations change HOW a student learns material.  

*Note that this is not the same as a modification which changes what is being taught or expected.
Accommodations don't make you weird; they make you equal! 

Success, go get it, written on a chalkboard If I need an accommodation in school because of my disability, then I must be weird and stupid, right? Absolutely not! Oftentimes, students feel that being different is a bad thing. I get it... we want to fit in; we want to blend in with our classmates. It's normal to feel that way. But, let's face it. There is something about you that makes you different. That is just a fact. Your disability makes you unique. It is one part of who you are as a person. And, it might present some challenges. That is a fact too.
So, what do we do with these challenges? How do we fit in and work through these challenges at the same time? The answer is accommodations. Think of accommodations as things that put you on an equal playing field as your peers. Without accommodations, you may not succeed in school. You may make yourself stand out even more. So, why not embrace your disability, allow yourself to have a needed accommodation, and set yourself up to be the best student that you can be?

Remember, it is when we are all on an equal level that we can begin to show our true selves. When we set ourselves up for success, we can go further than we even imagined. So set yourself up for success! Use your accommodations proudly, and show your classmates and teachers just how awesome you really are!
Spotlight On!
Accommodations in High School

Ashlee Thao, Shawnee Mission South, Overland Park 

Ashlee Thao smiling outside

Accommodations are oftentimes a must for high school students with disabilities. Take Ashlee Thao for example. Ashlee is a wonderful student, but, due to being blind, needs accommodations to put her on an equal playing field as her peers. As Ashlee explains below, accommodations are a "necessary tool." Read below for a peek at how Ashlee uses this tool to be successful...

"I'm a senior in high school, and, since all of my assignments are usually online, I use my school's MacBook and a Braille Notetaker to do most of my work. My accommodations come through the district as of now, but, since taking college classes at a junior college, I've been working with their disability services in getting the accommodations I need from them. Despite some design flaws, everything works for me in the classroom, so much so that I'm independent in all the work I turn in to my teachers.

I feel that accommodations are very important as they are a necessary tool in my life that I use on a daily basis to do the tasks that I need to. Without them, my work would be much less efficient." 
From Another Perspective!
Accommodations in College

Sierra Starr, Johnson County Community College   

Sierra Starr smiling and dressed up

College is a definite possibility for many people with disabilities. Students can get accommodations in college too! The process just looks a little different from high school. Below, hear from a young adult with a disability who is attending college and succeeding because of her accommodations...

"Hi, my name is Sierra, and I just want to tell you a little about me. I live in Overland Park. I'm 23 years old. I go to college, and I work at a church, and I use accommodations. My accommodations are not electronics. They are all humans. I have two accommodations. A person helps me with my reading and the other one helps me with my writing and spelling. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be able to go to college and do the work like everybody else. We have a homework lab that my teachers put my tests and I can take up to three weeks to take the test.

I had to go to the counseling office and speak to a counselor and see if I can get some accommodations to help me with my school work. They got me my two accommodations. Their names are Adam and Allen, and I thank them so much every day for helping me and I think the counselor for getting me the help. Allen reads me my papers. Adam helps me spell out the words that I need, and, if I mess up, he writes the right words. He will write what I say, and I copied it.

Before I asked for my accommodations, I was having trouble with my school work and in my classes. I would always run out of time to finish my paper, and I would never know what the test is. I would try hard to spell it out, and I would always get an F on all my tests. Half of the time, I just would not do my work, and my teachers would get mad and my mom would get mad until I told my mom what was going on. My mom and me went to the counseling office and asked to speak to a counselor and that is how I got Allen and Adam.

Now I'm always doing my homework on time and turning it into my teachers. I get an A or B on my tests... so much better than an F. That's my story. I hope you guys enjoy listening to me." 
Funding Sources for Assistive Technology  
Bag with money symbol on it and a tree stem coming out of it You are probably not made of money, and sometimes, accommodations can cost a lot! If you are in school, then, most likely, your accommodations are being paid for by your school. But, if they are not, or if you are needing assistive technology in the workforce, there are lots of resources available. Here are just some options...    
A state agency that works to help people with disabilities get employed. VR frequently helps their consumers pay for assistive technology needed in college or at work.

Need a loan? K-Loan provides low interest loans for persons with disabilities to obtain assistive technology.

ATK connects people with disabilities of all ages with the assistive technology that they need. They can suggest many funding sources for people in our state, including the Jerry Vogel AT Fund and the iCan Connect project.  
Provides quality, refurbished durable medical equipment and devices to people with disabilities for FREE!

Kansas TAP
Provides specialized phones for FREE to people with disabilities in our state who qualify.

Kansas Talking Books
Provides audio books and other specialized equipment at no cost.

While this group is not in Kansas, they do provide financial assistance for medical and mobility equipment to people in our state who have a definite financial need.

Transportation can be an accommodation, and is often a very expensive one! This organization helps pay for vehicle modifications through a grant process.  
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities is seeking new council members! They are especially looking for people with developmental disabilities to be on the council. KCDD ensures that people with I/DD have an opportunity to make choices regarding their participation in society and quality of life. If you are interested in becoming a council member, call the KCDD Office at 785-296-2608 or email

- The Kansas CEC is seeking nominations for their annual Yes, I Can! Awards. This award is given to school age youth with disabilities, ages 2 to 21, who excel in any of the following categories: academics, arts, school & community activities, self-advocacy, technology, or transition. The winner will be recognized at a state level. Nominations are due by September 1. Contact Charla Heddin at for more information.

- The KU Medical Center is conducting a study on youth with disabilities and health. They are looking for teens with intellectual or developmental disabilities who want to get active, eat a healthier diet, and lose weight. Participants must be between the ages of 13 and 21. All participants will be: Asked to follow one of three weight management programs; Encouraged to increase their physical activity; and Compensated for their time! Learn more

- Kansas Special Healthcare Needs is hosting regional meetings to gain feedback! They want information about how healthcare providers can better engage families and youth with disabilities. Upcoming meetings will take place in Salina (August 31) and Wichita (September 7). Learn more

- Help Joni and Friends collect, restore, deliver and fit wheelchairs to people with disabilities in the Kansas City area. Donate your unused manual wheelchair at one of five convenient locations throughout Kansas City on Saturday, Septem ber 30, from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm. There will even be prizes, refreshments, and drawings!
- The Disability Rights Center needs your help! DRC provides advocacy for Kansans with disabilities, and they are trying to figure out priorities for 2018. What issues are important to you? Fill out their survey and be entered to win $100 in gift cards! But remember to complete the survey by September 13. Complete the survey

- NEW APP! iTransition Kansas
Check out this new, free, exciting transition app created by the Disability Rights Center! This app can help you give more input during your IEP meetings. View the app

- If you are in the Wichita area on September 8, stop by the Kansas Truck Mobility Rodeo with over 25 vendors focusing on accessible vehicles and financing options. The event will be from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at Kansas Truck, located at 8846 W. Monroe Circle in Wichita. Learn more

- JOB OPENING! Job Coach for KU's Transition to Post-Secondary Education
Do you enjoy working with people with intellectual disabilities? The KU Transition to Postsecondary Education for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities is an inclusive postsecondary education program that provides students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in all typical campus academic and student life activities, as well as work experiences. They are hiring for a part-time career advisor/job coach position. This person will provide employment training and support to students in this program. For more information, contact Megan Heidrich at
Opportunities on a National Level
- The annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) Conference is right around the corner, and they want YOUth to attend! This is a great chance to experience the disability community on a national level AND meet other youth from across the nation. The Youth Conference will be held on October 20 in Spokane, Washington. This year's theme for the Youth Conference is "Team Work Makes the Dream Work." Participants will learn about advocacy, diversity, and independent living. The main APRIL Conference will then be held October 21-23 and is open to people of all ages. Learn about the 2017 APRIL Conference

The annual AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards are now seeking nominations! AAPD recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two winners will each receive $2,500 in recognition of their contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities. 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 October!
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 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
KYEA Completes 8th Empower Me! Workshop
Hays area youth learn how to be successful in employment

Group photo of EMS Hays participants and volunteers
Participants and volunteers of the Hays EMS workshop, along with KYEA staff, gather for a group photo in June.

KYEA traveled out to Hays, KS, in June to conduct our 8th Empower Me! Series (EMS) workshop! Eight youth from Hays and surrounding areas gathered for a day full of fun and learning. They came away with a new set of tools for being successful in employment!

KYEA partnered with LINK, Inc. for this one day workshop, held June 3, for youth with disabilities entitled "Now Hiring." Attendees learned all about how to be successful in employment. They heard from a panel of people with disabilities who are working, explored their own talents and job interests, wrote their own resume, experienced a mock job interview, heard from Vocational Rehabilitation,
Now Hiring workshop logo and experienced a presentation on soft skills complete with role playing and demonstration videos. The atte ndees also filled out their very own Indiv
idual Empowerment Plan focused on long and short term job goals. For the attendees, the workshop was a day full of learning skills and resources, laughing moments, and getting to meet other youth from around the area. 
A big thanks to all of the youth who attended! We enjoyed getting to know each of you!

Thank you to everyone who volunteered or spoke at our workshop! Also, a big thanks to LINK for partnering with us, helping throughout the planning process, and to the staff members who helped out at the workshop... we appreciate you! 

We are making plans for a new fiscal year of Empower Me! Series workshops! You might see some changes coming this year, so stay tuned! Next up though... we are heading to Iola for our rescheduled "Relationships 411" workshop...

EMS Workshop in Iola RESCHEDULED... Check it out!

Join us as we bring you the complete lowdown relationships, dating, friendship, and sexual health!

Relationships 411 logo with pictures of various couples

"Relationships 4.1.1." 
Saturday, October 28  
10:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Townhouse Apartments Community Room in Iola

We are joining forces with the Resource Center for Independent Living to bring you this exciting workshop!

We all deserve happy and healthy relationships! Spend a day with us learning about all types of relationships, dating, social skills, safety, sexual health, and more in an interactive group setting. Hear from speakers, participate in group discussions, meet other youth with disabilities, enjoy hands on activities, food, prizes, and more! This workshop is open to youth with disabilities, ages 15-25, who live in Iola or surrounding areas.

Register by OCTOBER 13!

Faces of Change Participants Working on Community Change Projects!  

Faces of Change is going strong and participants have been moving forward with their Community Change Projects. We want to help spread the word about these projects, so we will be featuring many in our newsletter. Check out a new Schizophrenia Support Group below created by Faces participant, Patrick Dahlman.
Support group BY people with Schizophrenia, FOR people with Schizophrenia!
by Patrick Dahlman, Faces of Change Participant  

Schizophrenia Support Group logo with mountain and green lights in the sky
Schizophrenia Support Group
Our Saviors Lutheran Church (2021 SW 29th St, Topeka)
Meets second Thursday of every month, 7:00-8:00 pm

This support group is for people only with Paranoid Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder. You must be between the ages of 18 and 30, and all genders are accepted. This group is for people in the Topeka area and surrounding areas. Things that we will discuss include: coping with the illness, medication, and hearing from speakers on different topics, if possible. But it's not all work and no play! We will also have an open mic night, movie night, and more ideas to come!

If you do not live in the area, I have started a Reddit page. The Reddit group is for people of all ages. There also is a Facebook group for those in Topeka and surrounding areas.

Visit the Facebook group
Visit the Reddit page

For more information, contact Patrick at
Accommodations and YOU:
Here's an IDEA!

Are you confused about your rights as a student with a disability? What in the world is IDEA, IEP, etc? Get a direct, simple explanation from a young adult with a disability below...

by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni

Did you know that there is a law that helps students with disabilities in the classroom? It is frustrating when others don't listen to what you need to do your best. So in 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") was passed to make sure students' needs were being met. This law gave us yearly goals and the right to be with our classmates of all abilities.

Your IEP- paper with star on it The IDEA allows for the creation of Individualized Education Plans ("IEP's") for students with disabilities. An IEP meeting allows the student, teachers, and parents to create yearly goals to help with their struggles. For example, if you are a student who has difficulty writing, your IEP may say you have extra time to complete your test. A service like this helps a student have the same chances as others in their classroom.

The law also says that students with disabilities must be taught in a similar environment to other students who do not have disabilities. This is sometimes referred to as the Least Restrictive Environment ("LRE"). This idea makes it possible for students with disabilities to interact with other students who have different beliefs, backgrounds, or even struggles of their own.

All in all, the IDEA was created with YOU in mind! It is important for you, the student, to have input on the future of your education. After all, you are the only one who is going to participate in your educational experience. You have the right to speak up when something doesn't feel right. Although this article does not talk about every way that the IDEA can be helpful, my hope is that you have learned more about why it is important for students with disabilities. If yo u would like to learn more about the IDEA, you can visit: .
The Many Sides of Accommodations in School

Did you know that accommodations in school can come in so many different forms? Accommodations are made to fit each individual student. Find the one that best fits you! 
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

A female high school student writing on a paper Sometimes it seems as if accommodations for people with disabilities are a sign of weakness; something to be embarrassed or ashamed of using, or even as a crutch. The truth is that accommodations are designed to provide an equal start. Rosie Cooper, KYEA Faces of Change coordinator, explains accommodations as "giving running shoes to someone who wants to run a race." Take a look at the many accommodations that you can use to help you "run your race" in school:
  1. Sitting in front of the classroom
  2. Books in Braille or electronic copies
  3. Extra time on assignments/tests
  4. Social group to practice social skills
  5. Job coach
  6. Directions provided orally, printed, or picture directions
  7. Reduced assignments
  8. Quiet room for testing
  9. Assistance with note-taking
  10. Digital recorder to record lectures
  11. Sign language interpreters or American Sign Language (ASL)
  12. Computer with screen reading program, magnification program, or speech-to-text program
  13. Assistance with personal care during school hours (eating, bathroom use, etc.)
This is just a small list of the options. Think about other accommodations that might be helpful to you. It's your choice on whether or not to fully access and use your accommodations at school, your job, etc. Just know that you have a right to them under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Go for it! Use your accommodations. Your adult self will thank you in the future!
Technology At It's Best!
Most popular pieces of assistive technology for students

Assistive technology is often used in schools for students with disabilities. There are so many options these days, but we are bringing you some of the most popular choices below. Look closely... you might find something new that can assist you!

compiled by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
A computer program for people with learning disabilities. Allows listening to the material that is visible on the computer screen. Learn more
Read a talking book, listen to a blog, view GPS that explains what the next intersection looks like, and more!
These days, assistive technology often comes in the form of apps on smartphones or tablets. Here are four popular and helpful apps:

Helps those with learning disabilities take notes by handwriting them, also has word processing feature.
Learn more
For junior high aged youth to young adults with Autism; works to improve their social skills.
Learn more

Stop the guesswork. With Ava, see what people say. Picture of phone with speech on it.

This app makes conversations accessible to the hard of hearing and deaf with the ability to make appropriate audible responses or responses that may be read.
Create customizable keyboards (choose voices, keys, sizes, layout, etc.) that are printable. This app is for those with speech disabilities.
Learn more 
Community Power!
Circle with different types of disability logos
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
Delaware Valley Center for Independent Living, Horton

In August's Community Power article, we welcome a relatively new CIL to Kansas and recognize a new youth voice to KYEA. Daija Coleman is a 2017 KSYLF Alumna and new addition to our KYEA family. Check out Daija's article below!

Delaware Valley Center for Independent Living logo
The Delaware Valley Center for Independent Living is located in Horton, Kansas at 114 West 8th Street. A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to the disability community. During my interview with the Director, Pam Brown, she informed me that Delaware Valley serves Northeast Kansas. Delaware Valley serves four counties: Atchison, Brown, Doniphan and Jackson. They employ four to five staff members.

The uniqueness of Delaware Valley is the fact that they have been in operation for three years, but on their own for less than a year and are stationed in such a rural area. Because of this, Delaware Valley is only able to currently provide core services such as job skills, interview skills, and planning and setting goals for the future. Currently, Delaware Valley has a youth work study program that they hope to expand to area schools in the near future by collaborating with school districts... it's new and exciting! While participating in work study, youth go to the center for an hour and receive training for jobs around the CIL. The youth program is for youth in 6th grade up to those in their early twenties.

For questions about programs and services, contact Pam Brown at 785-487-1370. Also check out the Delaware Valley website at