Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
It's our first newsletter of 2020! So, first, Happy New Year! We hope that your year has started off awesome. It's February, so it is the month of loooove. Are you sick of seeing hearts everywhere and hearing mushy love stories? Well, we are taking a bit of a different spin on this topic this year.
Instead of focusing this newsletter just on the topic of romantic relationships, we are spotlighting the many faces of relationships. We have relationships with our family, our friends, our co-workers, and even OURSELVES! Each of these is very important. So, in this issue, you will learn how to love yourself more, and you will hear stories of various relationships and what makes them special. So, read on, and think about all of the relationships that you have, or want to have, in your life.
As always, we have a lot going on at KYEA, so check out all of our latest news! We have also brought back our Advocacy Corner this month, but, this time, one of our alumni is sharing her opinion on an important topic. We have lots of opportunities and resources abound in this newsletter.
So, why delay? Get reading! And please know, no matter who you are, your relationship with KYEA means the world to us!
- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
The Many Faces of Relationships
by Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator When I say the word "relationship," what comes to mind? You might think about hearts, dates, romance, commitment, etc, etc. Have you ever thought about how many different types of relationships that one person can have? Relationship does not just mean connections of the romantic type. While those are fun and important, the relationships that we have with other people are just as important. You have a relationship with your friends, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors... even YOURSELF! This newsletter is full of examples of different relationships. Why are each of these important? Here are some reasons:
Family: This is a really important relationship. Although, we can't assume that everyone has a family. Even if you don't have relationships with blood relatives, you might see some of your friends as your family. Family is a very special thing. Family means unconditional love. We all need family in our lives in order to feel secure and like we belong. Family is hopefully where you feel like you can just be your true self no matter what. Family can oftentimes give us insight into our cultural and biological background too.
Friends: Maybe this is the group of people that you feel like you can best be your true self. Friends are so important. Friends allow us to get to know people outside of our family, probably of diverse backgrounds. Friends might help you explore different hobbies and have different experiences. Oftentimes, there are things that we will talk with our friends about that we don't necessarily want to share with our family.
Partners: Partners are those that we feel a romantic connection to. These are people that you are attracted to. With a partner, you might flirt; you might go on dates; you might get married. This is a unique type of relationship that can bring a deep connection into your life. It's important to note, though, that not everyone is interested in this type of relationship, and that's okay.
Co-Workers: These relationships are very different from the others, BUT, can lead to friendships or even romantic relationships. Co-workers are people that you work with; people that you possibly team up with at your job. These are people that we typically have to be professional around, but can also make our day more interesting and fun while we are at work.
Yourself: It may be weird to think about having a relationship with yourself, but we all do. This relationship can be good, bad, or a little of both. Honestly, it is THE most important relationship in your life! How you feel about yourself can affect everything that you do. It can also affect your relationships with other people. If you can learn to love yourself, it can change your life!
Employment, success, role models, and more!
Youth in 3 more locations learn about jobs through Empower Me! Workshops
So far, we have served 398 youth across the state of Kansas through our Empower Me! Workshops with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). And we are not stopping anytime soon! In the last few months, we have had three more workshops, a little bit closer to home this time. Check out our recent stops:
Topeka! This workshop was held right in our backyard on December 2. Twenty-two youth attended from Topeka, Mayetta, St. Mary's, Berryton, Valley Falls, Meridan, and Hoyt. This is the third time that we have had a workshop in Topeka.
Participants of the Topeka Pre-ETS
Empower Me Workshop take a group photo
with KYEA and Pre-ETS staff.
Stop #21... Overland Park! Participants came from Overland Park, Lenexa, Shawnee, and Olathe to attend this workshop. We had 20 youth and the workshop was held on January 21.
Participants of the Overland Park Pre-ETS
Empower Me Workshop
for a group photo.
Stop #22... Kansas City! This is the second time that we have hosted a workshop in Kansas City. Twenty-one youth attended this one on February 6. The youth were from the cities of Basehor, Bonner Springs, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Linwood, Tonganoxie, and Olathe.
Participants of the Kansas City
Empower Me Workshop
with KYEA staff
As always, thank you to the fantastic Pre-ETS staff for working with us on these workshops! It has been such an honor and a blast for KYEA staff to be able to help the youth participants get one step closer to a successful employment future! Also, a big thank you to Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Jimmy Johns, all of which have donated lunch for various workshops over the last year.
We are not done yet! We have a couple more workshops coming up in the next few months. Check out our other scheduled dates and, if you qualify, talk to your Pre-ETS Specialist about attending:
April 9- Chanute
April 28- Beloit
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!
An Unbreakable Bond: Friendship Through Common Ground
Elizabeth Wright and Jocelyne Van Meter, Wichita
Friendship is a very special thing to have. It can oftentimes be strengthened when both people share a common life experience. Elizabeth Wright and Jocelyne Van Meter know this first hand. These two have been friends for quite a few years and are bonded because they both understand what it's like to get through challenges. Read on to see how they support each other and learn from each other...
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change Alumni
Connecting with others is important. Whether it's a difficult time in someone's life, or a common bond is shared, friendship is a vital element of the human experience. Jocelyne Van Meter and Elizabeth Wright have been friends since middle school. Jocelyne has severe ADHD, mild autism, PTSD, and non-epileptic seizures. Elizabeth has cerebral palsy and a neurogenic bowel and bladder condition. She also uses a walker or power chair for mobility.
The two met in seventh grade. Their friendship began as they sat together during lunch for the first time. Over the last six years, they have become great friends. Since they met, Jocelyne obtained her CNA license. They talk frequently and try to see each other 1-2 times per month.
"Spending time together allows us to catch up on life and giggle together," Jocelyne said. "We can talk about anything. Our friendship is non-judgmental."
Jocelyne and Elizabeth spend time going to the local movie theatre, seeing different shows, and going out to lunch or dinner. Their friendship has also taught them a lot about their disabilities.
"Jocey is good at letting others know what her disabilities are, and she is also good at showing them who she wants to be," Elizabeth said. "She is fiercely independent, but also realizes when she needs to rely on others."
Being friends with Elizabeth has taught Jocelyne to appreciate the simple things in life. She has watched Elizabeth overcome obstacles which many of us can take for granted. Whether it's getting dressed, putting on her braces, or getting in or out of a vehicle, Jocelyne has learned to, not only assist Elizabeth, but also appreciate the abilities that she has.
"There is more to Elizabeth than her walker or disabilities," Jocelyne said. "She is a great friend who is loyal, funny, and never gives up."
"Jocelyne has enabled and pushed me to be more independent," Elizabeth said. "If I am unsure about doing something, I can listen to Jocelyne. She has helped me realize that independence is important."
While talking with each of them about their experiences, I learned that Jocelyne and Elizabeth have a great bond and will have a friendship that is sure to last a lifetime. I want to thank each of you for sharing your stories with me and letting me spend a few minutes getting to know you better.
"Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together." -- Woodrow Wilson
What is Your Love Language?
KYEA staff explain how they best receive love in their lives
We all have a love language. Whether you know yours or not, you DO have one. A love language is the way that a person gives and receives love. It is how they know that someone cares and how they show that they care. It's important to know the love languages of your family, friends, partner, and even co-workers. It will give you a new perspective on how to make them feel cared for and appreciated. Instead of just explaining all of the Love Languages, we thought it would be fun for KYEA staff to share their top Love Languages. This just goes to show that, even though we may be a team, we are each unique people as well!
"As I am dealing with a recent end to a romantic relationship, it was perfect timing to take the 5 Love Languages quiz online. While I had taken this quiz back in college, I wondered if my love language might have changed over time. Back in the day, my top 2 love languages were Quality Time and Words of Affirmation. Looking back, this made total sense to me. I had sight at that time, going from barely any friends in high school to new friends in college and my confidence was very low. So, spending time with those who wanted to spend time with me and hearing words of encouragement and belief in my abilities was important to me.
The results of my recent quiz may surprise you a bit. My top 2 Love Languages now are Acts of Service and Physical Touch. Now that I am completely blind and manage chronic pain, people who generously help me when I need it is so valuable to me and my independence. In addition, since the progression of my disabilities, I have noticed that people hesitate, or bypass completely, the physical touch (hugs, hand on the back, etc). As a result, when it does indeed happen, it makes me feel accepted, loved, and cherished. Who would have thought that having a disability, or the progression of a disability, can impact how you prefer people to express their love for you!!"
"I would say that my top 2 Love Languages when receiving love are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. I think I've known for a long time that nothing makes me feel better inside than to hear from someone, through their words, how they feel about me. Words are so important. I truly appreciate compliments and to hear when I've done something well. When someone is genuine and speaks from their heart, it is the best feeling in the world to be on the receiving end of that. On the other hand, if someone says something negative to me and criticizes me, I really am deeply affected by that and it makes me sad and frustrated. With Quality Time, this comes in second, but it is pretty important to me as well. If someone reaches out and wants to spend time with me, then that really tells me that they care and that they enjoy being around me. Being together also encourages conversation, which leads me back to my first Love Language :)."
"My love languages have changed. I actually have two: Quality Time and Physical Touch. One has remained the same. I've always appreciated physical touch from those I trust and whom I give permission to touch me. Since my vision is not great, I really appreciate my shoulder being touched. Now, the big change for me is quality time. I never used to care much about this because I assumed I would always hang out with friends. But, since I've gotten older, and do not drive, spending time with my friends and family is like a gift that keeps on giving. It helps me get through the wildness that is my life."
"Love is a choice you make everyday." -- Dr. Gary Chapman
A feature where you can speak up and speak out!
Our Advocacy Corner is back, and, this month, one of our alumna's has something to say. This month's topic:
Having a disability doesn't always mean "looking the part"
by Michaela VanDeusen, KSYLF Alumna '17
I was in the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum my junior year of high school. I have mental health disabilities. I often see negative comments about disabilities, especially against mental health. It's often the idea that you have to look disabled to be disabled. And, that you have an inability in order to be disabled.
For example, I saw a Facebook post with a model who is a person of short stature. There was a comment made that "little people'' shouldn't be considered disabled because height doesn't stop someone from doing something. This is a misconception. Having a disability doesn't mean you also do not encompass multiple health conditions with it, or that you don't have multiple disabilities. There is no specific look to a disability. And, the idea that disability means inability is not true, it would simply be called "inabilities." Instead, it's to imply that someone has a disadvantage or a harder time accomplishing something. It doesn't mean that one cannot do something.
While, for many with disabilities, there may be something that they cannot do, it's not like that for everyone. I think that, if you need help and accommodations to lead a healthy, happy, functional life, you have a disability. Most importantly, your disability shouldn't stop you, but rather it makes you creative, unique, and strong. Be confident in yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help. I hope this also allows the general public to understand misconceptions and for them to support, encourage, respect, and get educated with the disabled community.
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
Kansas Disability Caucus is back!! The Caucus will be held on August 12-14, 2020 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Topeka. This year's theme is "We the People... Our Rights, Our Responsibilities, Our Lives." Put the dates on your calendar and plan to attend! More information will be coming soon!
ADHDKC is forming a new women's support group
! This group is for mothers of youth with ADHD, women with ADHD, and women with spouses who have ADHD. Their first meeting is going to focus on self-care. This organization also has many other groups, including one for teens. To learn about all of their groups, visit the
- ThinkFirst of Greater Kansas City is looking for young adults who are interested in becoming
VIP (Voices for Injury Prevention) speakers
. VIP's are presenters for ThinkFirst assemblies and presentations. Speakers should be 15 to 30-year-olds who have been involved in a motor vehicle crash that resulted in a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury. VIP's serve as role models and get to share their personal story with students of all ages in an assembly setting. They even get a stipend and mileage reimbursement.
- If you live in Emporia and are looking for a job, you might check out new opportunities at the Resource Center for Independent Living. RCIL has created a new position of
Youth Transition Coordinator
. This person will help expand services for youth in the Lyon county area. They are also looking for an Independent Living Specialist.
Learn more about the positions by visiting the RCIL website.
To apply for either of these positions, contact Adam at 785-528-3105.
Opportunities on a National Level
Youth scholarships are now available to attend the
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Conference
! The NCIL Conference is an annual national conference held in Washington, DC that brings people with disabilities and others who work in independent living together to learn and advocate. Youth are always encouraged to attend. There are a couple of different scholarships available in order to help with the costs. Apply by April 24!
Are you interested in farming and agriculture? Then, you might want to attend
AgrAbility's Youth Pre-Conference
! This Pre-Conference will be on March 23 from 1:00-4:00 pm. It is will be at the Madison Concourse Hotel in Madison, WI. This Pre-Conference is open to youth 24 years old and younger. It will include games, opportunities to connect with other youth farmers, speakers, assistive technology, and more.
Did you know that, if you have a valid Medicaid or EBT (including WIC, TANF, and SNAP) card, then you can get an
Amazon Prime membership
at a discounted rate? You can receive all Prime benefits with a monthly fee of $5.99.
- If you have an interest in studying abroad, there are many scholarships to make it possible! MIUSA is an organization that promotes
international opportunities for students with disabilities
. Check out their
to learn more about them. One scholarship that they are promoting is the
Gilman Scholarship Program
. They are also having upcoming webinars: one on having a global career and the other on scholarships for studying abroad.
Learn more about these webinars
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 May!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA by going to our website at
Let us know what you think about our newsletter! If there is anything that we can do to make our newsletter more accessible or more interesting to you, please call us at 785-215-6655 so we can make the change for next time.
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy
Donate to KYEA!
Do you believe in the KYEA mission of empowering and supporting youth with disabilities in our state? Consider making a donation! We appreciate any and all support to help us keep changing lives!
(just click on the DONATE button)
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KS Youth Leadership Forum Looking for Volunteers for 2020!
The 2020 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum is going to be here before we know it, and we need quality, enthusiastic volunteers! Do you like working with high school students with disabilities? Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate young adults with disabilities? Then we need you!
We seek committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program. Yes, we realize that a week is a big commitment, but you will not regret it, we promise! Just ask any of our past volunteers who have been changed by this program.
The 2020 KSYLF will be held on July 6-11 at Washburn University in Topeka. Volunteers can be KSYLF alumni, past volunteers, or anyone in our state who is over age 18. Our volunteer application deadline is MARCH 13. Apply to serve as a volunteer today!
Thank you to Advisors Excel!
We have to give a huge shout out and thank you to a fantastic Topeka company! KYEA was selected by Advisors Excel to receive a generous donation as part of their AE Big Day. On January 6, two teams of awesome employees flooded our office, delivering bags and bags of supplies for our programs. These supplies are all things that we would otherwise have had to buy and they are all essential to making our programs operate.
Thank you SO MUCH to Advisors Excel for selecting KYEA for this donation! We are humbled and grateful. Thank you for caring so much about the Topeka community and giving so much of your time and resources to local charities. We are so honored to have been a recipient of this donation. Also, thank you to Chris Fisher for thinking of us and passing our name along to Advisors Excel!
Family Connection: The Twin Perspective
Two brothers share so much more than just family genes
Have you ever wondered what it's like to have a twin? Well, Rick and Joe Sack don't have to wonder... they live it everyday! The Sack brothers are 18 years old and live in Nickerson, KS. Both attended the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum this past summer and both are now team members in our Faces of Change program. Not only are Rick and Joe twins, but they also both have disabilities. And both brothers are so fun, positive, and full of life! We wanted to get a deeper view of their bond as brothers, twins, and as family members who both have disabilities. So, we asked Whit Downing, Faces Alumna '17-'18, to interview the brothers and help us learn about them more. Watch the video below to see just how special of a bond that these brothers have... and you might even learn a bit about beat-boxing too!
Learning to Love Yourself
A new way of thinking that will help you grow in confidence
There are a lot of people that we love, but have you ever thought about loving yourself? This is a relationship that, oftentimes, we overlook. BUT, accepting yourself can make a huge impact! Think about it...
by Kirstianna Guerrero, KSYLF Alumna '18 and Faces Team Member
You are unique. So many different things come together to make you who you are. Your skin color, style, disability, personality, weaknesses, strengths, and more! All of these things are a part of you. Self-love is accepting and embracing all these things, loving all that you are, exactly as you are. This is a simple concept, but is not always easy.
Many different things can try to take away how you see your beauty. Society's ever changing standard of beauty is one of them. If you try living your life based on that idea, you will never be good enough. But, you are already perfect as you are! The foundation of true love in any form is commitment, not feelings. That means choosing to embrace who you are even when you don't like it. Choosing to see the good in yourself with love no matter what comes your way. This leads to joy and peace because it brings you freedom. You are no longer obsessing over other's opinions, and you can walk confidently knowing who you are.
I encourage you to take a moment and exercise self-love with this simple activity. Write down all of the traits that you can think about yourself, physically and mentally... even the things you struggle with, everything! Now, take time to practice thankfulness. Being thankful: the step of intentionally recognizing something and letting gratitude lead you. There is a reason for everything in your life. Think deeper about the purpose of each part of you; see the good in it. Now write this down, choose your perspective. This may stretch you on things you struggle with, but, having a list of why every part of you is beautiful will lead you to live truly loved through everything.
If you would like to hear more from Kirstianna's perspective, you're in luck! Kirstianna has a Facebook page called The Beautiful Project. Check it out to view many videos that encourage loving yourself! Click on the logo below to visit The Beautiful Project.
"Demonstrate love by giving it, unconditionally, to yourself. And as you do, you will attract others into your life who will love you without conditions." -- Unknown
Making a First Impression
Tips for how to be more confident when meeting people
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
A really helpful quote that one of my therapists gave to me before she retired was "Confidence isn't walking into a room thinking you are better than anyone else, but walking into the room not thinking that you have to compare yourself to others." I mean, it's just genius! For me, the secret in the sauce is the understanding that we are all enough. It's hard to meet new people and feel comfortable doing this. It's even harder to really seem confident when approaching those that we don't know. But, it is possible! Here are some tips for growing your confidence when approaching new people:
1. Self-Affirmations - Every day, while getting ready, stare into the mirror while looking in your eyes and state out loud "I love you" or "Hey honey, you are looking good today." You could also try "I'm blessed," "I am loved," "I am enough," or "I am a good employee/student." Dig deep and try to create a positive statement of how you really feel about yourself, even if it's the opposite of how you feel in that moment. For instance, if you feel afraid, then tell yourself that you are brave.
2. Break the ice by giving compliments to others on something that they are wearing such as eyeglasses, earrings, shoes, hairstyle, etc.
3. Practice introducing yourself with a thirty-second elevator speech with your name and a few things about yourself. Or, practice some conversation starters. If you have a couple of go-to conversation starters, it will make it way less stressful to talk to people.
4. Try taking a breath before you introduce yourself. Maybe recite a positive quote quietly out loud. I suggest "I'm getting better and better every day in every way."
5. Are you afraid? If so, do it scared until your confidence is more secure. If you smile with your mouth, eyes, and voice, these signal to others that you are approachable.
6. If you are sensitive to touch, simply extend your hand for a handshake. This act automatically sets a safe physical boundary. If someone insists on hugging, then gently, but firmly, state that you would rather just shake hands. This will take some practice.
But, how do I meet people?
So, you've got the tips for how to confidently approach people, but now you've got to actually go where the people are. Where can you meet new people? There are so many options, but here is just a small list of ideas:
1. School clubs or community groups
2. Public Library
3. Church, synagogue, or wherever you practice your faith
4. Coffee houses or restaurants
6. Music festival or concert
7. Your job
8. The store!
9. Social media - Remember to use this safely and use appropriate boundaries.
10. Websites like
- A great place to find local groups of people that share a common interest.
11. Intramural sports, accessible sports teams, or your local park
12. High school, college, tech school, or graduate school
Highlighting helpful resources throughout the state
If you are a self-advocate who would like to meet other self-advocates, then here is the perfect organization for you! The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas serves people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and brings them together in consumer groups. They do much more, so read on to learn about the ins and outs of SACK...
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) is located in Lawrence (2518 Ridge Ct., #236) with thirty consumer groups in different communities across Kansas. SACK is an advocacy organization for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The mission statement for SACK includes multiple statements that ensure that individuals with I/DD receive services in the community in a coordinated, flexible, and seamless manner. As for consumer participation, SACK's mission is that "individuals will have the opportunity to participate in independent self-advocate groups and to know their rights and responsibilities as citizens." With that mission in mind, consumer groups determine how they each will run. Most groups focus on community inclusion in employment, serving on boards, and access to the community. Currently, there are no youth groups, but Stephanie Sanford, SACK's Advocacy Coordinator, stated that they would really love one to be formed.
What is most notable about SACK is that it is an organization for individuals with I/DD, run by and for individuals with I/DD. As a demonstration of the right to choice, the motto of "nothing about us without us," and in an effort to encourage leadership, SACK members have been attending Kansas Leadership Center trainings and there have been positive results. Small group members are more willing to speak in public about their needs, desires, and the direction they want their communities and state to move towards regarding inclusive practices.
On a daily basis, SACK provides peer support and technical assistance. If a youth would like to get involved, there are volunteer opportunities and one may always join a small group. And don't forget that they have a fantastic conference every year in June in Topeka! Details about that will be coming out soon. For more information, contact Stephanie Sanford or Jaclyn Anderson at 785-749-5588.
Want to get involved with your local Center for Independent Living? Here are exciting upcoming opportunities:
Resource Center for Independent Living
Transition Pathways Fair
April 15, 2020
5:00 - 7:00 pm
Point Events Center (2101 Dearborn St., Augusta)
Many agencies will attend and share about community resources for employment, college, and more!
For more information, contact Macy Collins at 316-322-7853.
Three Rivers, Inc.
Three Rivers works with
Pre-Employment Transition Services to provide various employment services to youth with disabilities in Central Northeast Kansas. They teach a job preparation and self-advocacy class, which is part of the Work-Based Learning Experience (WBL). Participants learn employment skills, like effective communication / interactions with coworkers, resume completion, application completion, interview skills, employment opportunities in the community, and expectations such as punctuality and performance. They also learn about hygiene, appropriate dress, teamwork, and self-advocacy skills to understand one's disability, accommodations, and rights. To get involved with these services, contact Three Rivers at 785-456-9915.
*To have your CIL's event dates listed in future issues, contact Johnna at email@example.com.