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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #33
October 2015 
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: Disability Employment Awareness Month
:: Spotlight On: Marcus Long
:: Employment Can WORK For You! Video
:: Employment Resource: Vocational Rehabilitation
:: Online Resources to Help with Employment
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA Updates
:: Disability Mentoring Day Held Throughout the State
:: To Disclose or Not to Disclose: Thomas' Perspective
:: "Work Early, Work Often" Video
:: Community Power: ILRC in Wichita

A typewriter displays the words jobs and careers
EMPLOYMENT. One small word that means so much in the grand scheme of life! Yes, you have probably heard us talk about this topic before, but it is SO important that we will frequently be making this topic a theme of our newsletter.

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. At KYEA, we spend a lot of our time working with youth with disabilities to get them prepared for working, and the topic of employment is frequently a piece of every program that we coordinate. Why? Because having a job not only gives you a paycheck that you EARNED and allows you to contribute to society, but it also helps you to get out, meet people, use your skills, learn new things, feel healthier and more confident, and, yes, even have a little fun! Who wouldn't want that?

This month, our whole newsletter is dedicated to the topic of employment, specifically for youth with disabilities. This newsletter is chock full of examples of youth who are working, tips for getting and keeping a job, resources for employment, and articles that will show you just how important that working is to your everyday life. Of course, we also threw in a few KYEA updates and our first Community Power article!

Check it all out below. If KYEA can ever assist you in your employment journey, please contact us!

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

Below you will find helpful hints from the perspective of a boss -- me -- on how to get and keep a job.     

Looking:  You have to put the effort in.
  1. Advertise- Update your resume and hand them out to as many businesses as you can.  It does not matter if they have available positions.  Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job.  Post it on social media and drop it in a conversation.  Just get your name out there!  
  2. Workforce Centers - Utilize your local workforce center and the services they provide.  If there is not one in your area, jump on the web and use their online job services.  
Interview: First impressions mean everything!
  1. Research - Do extensive research on the business you are interviewing for.  Skimming their website is NOT enough.  Go through all the links and ask your friends what they know about the business.
  2. Know where you are going- Look up their address, map out your route and be sure you have the phone number just in case you get lost.
  3. Be on time - Actually, be early.  Showing up exactly at the time the interview is scheduled gives a poor impression.  When someone is 10 - 15 minutes early, that is impressive.  Show that the job matters by arriving early and being willing to wait.
  4. Dress - Always dress professional for interviews.  It does not matter what you are interviewing for.  If you are unsure what that looks like, do some online investigating.
  5. Disability Disclosure- Share about your disability in the interview in a positive fashion.  Don't hide, share it and let them know all your strengths that come along with it!
Click the link below to read Julia's full article and learn about keeping a job, following the rules, and the things that you definitely should NOT do at a job!

Read the full article
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! 
Disability Employment Awareness Month poster
The 2015 Disability Employment Awareness Month poster shows diverse people with various disabilities and states, "My disability is one part of who I am. At work, it's what people can do that matters. Celebrating 70 Years!"
"My disability is only one part of who I am."

What do you think about this statement? Is this how you see your disability? Disabilities should be celebrated, but other parts of you should be celebrated as well! This month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the quote above is the theme for the 70th anniversary of this important month.

This month is about recognizing the importance of employment for people with disabilities. Yes, you may have a disability, but that is only one part of you, and it should not stop you from having a job. Everyone has skills and talents... many people with disabilities are putting those to good use at their job! There are still a lot of people with disabilities who are not employed though. Check out this quote from President Obama:

"Americans with disabilities make up almost one-fifth of our population, but are unemployed at a rate that is twice that of people without disabilities; and for women and minorities with disabilities, the rates are even higher."

Are you surprised by that? Don't be a part of that statistic. If you do have a job, congrats! If you don't have a job, but want one, contact KYEA or another resource in your community who can help you take the first step.

Employment is so important and makes us feel good about ourselves. Go out there and show others that your disability is only one part of who you are! Happy Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Marcus Long with his Hyvee badge on Spotlight On!
Employment Success for Youth with Disabilities

Marcus Long, Shawnee

by Dallas Hathaway, Newsletter Writer

When a person with a disability is employed, this not only allows them to gain independence, but it also allows them to showcase their skills within the workplace. Marcus Long is a 25-year-old employee at HyVee who has a learning disability. He participated in the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum in 2007 and felt he gained quite a bit from being in the program.

Throughout the past several years, Long has been able to maintain employment. Currently, he works as a courtesy clerk for the store and often completes tasks such as bagging groceries, loading carts for customers, and helping them take their items to the car.

"One of my favorite parts of the job is being able to help the customers," said Marcus. Being a people person is something that he definitely enjoys.

Other talents he brings to the job include great customer service skills, as well as being able to make the customers smile on a daily basis. Overall, Marcus feels that he caught onto the job pretty quickly when he first started.

"I have to write down the schedule. That helps me stay organized," said Long. Having a schedule and being organized are necessary for many different types of employment.

In his spare time, Marcus enjoys playing basketball, volleyball and participating in Special Olympics. He credits his sister for helping him get involved in activities.

Marcus also had some encouraging words for other youth with disabilities who might be seeking employment.

"Just remember to never give up, and keep on trying," Marcus said.

Finding employment is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it can certainly be an unforgettable and rewarding experience. While talking with Marcus, I learned that determination is important, and he does whatever it takes to get the job done. 
Employment Can WORK for You!
Don't think you can work? Click the video below and let these people show you otherwise! Hear various stories that demonstrate work is possible and can make our lives even better. 

A young man with down syndrome sorts paperwork at his job
EMPLOYMENT RESOURCE: Vocational Rehabilitation  
Need some assistance with getting a job, paying for college or training, finding technology for the workplace, etc? Then you need to contact Vocational Rehabilitation! They specialize in helping people with disabilities become successfully employed. Read below for full details on this important resource...
by Johnna Godinez, VISTA Program Assistant

A woman sits at a desk and is working on her laptop Are you like me? Do you like a deal? Well, stay tuned and let me tell you about one of the best things going in Kansas for youth with disabilities. That's right! I'm referring to VR, aka Vocational Rehabilitation. VR is their name and employment for youth with disabilities is their game.

So what is VR? VR is a state agency devoted to assisting people with disabilities in their unique employment journeys, especially youth. Often, VR funds college or technical school.  Not only that, but they assist their clients with the prep work necessary for pre- job-search and during a job search. You know, creating a resume, participating in mock-interviews, searching for job openings, completing and submitting applications, and job-interviews. Sounds pretty great, huh?

Wait, there's more! VR services are free! That's right! So, if you're interested, contact your local DCF Service Center and request and return the completed application. Your awesome future is asking you to do it today!

Oh, and one more thing- if you don't know your accommodations (help) that you'll need to be successful in a job, then VR can help with that too! One cool assessment you might qualify for is the Assistive Technology (AT) assessment. You might be a person that would benefit from a computer program that reads the screen, or a cool pen that reads back what you write, or a smart phone with apps for different types of needs. VR can help with all of this and more!

Resource Central: Online Resources to Help with Employment

Take a look at these great resources for youth that will help get you on the right track to employment!

Great resource from the National Youth Leadership Network on the basics of getting a job. Learn about searching for jobs, the application, disclosure, etc.

Made to help people teach soft skills, but this booklet has lots of helpful information and hands on activities.

A really helpful guide that shares how and when to talk about your disability at your job.

A workbook that walks you through every step of planning for employment. This is one that everyone can understand!

Thinking of starting your own company? Read this first!

This guide, specifically for youth with disabilities, focuses on getting and making the most of an internship.

Lots of tips to help you prepare for every step of the interview process.

Looking for a job? Check out this helpful article with lots of resources!
" As a Nation, we must continue to promote inclusion in the workplace and to tear down the barriers that remain -- in hearts, in minds, and in policies -- to the security and prosperity that stable jobs provide and that all our people deserve."
-- President Barack Obama
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- The first week of October was Anti-Bullying Awareness Week in Kansas. Learn more about this week and view lots of anti-bullying resources on the KS State Department of Education website

- Have you ever attended a Family Employment Awareness Training from Families Together? This is a great training that helps families prepare their youth with disabilities for future employment. The next training is on October 16, but there are also future dates coming up as well. Learn more and view a full list of dates     
- NAMI Kansas is having their annual conference this coming weekend! The conference will focus on various aspects of living with a mental health disability. The conference will be held October 16-17 in Topeka. There will even be a session on the voices of youth in the mental health system. Don't delay if you would like to attend... register today! Learn more

- Would you like to learn more about mental health disabilities from people who experience them everyday? NAMI provides training's called "Family-to-Family" that are for family, significant others and friends of people living with mental health disabilities. This free, 12-session educational program helps improve the coping and problem-solving abilities of the people closest to an individual living with a mental health condition. The sessions are taught by NAMI-trained family members who have been there, and includes presentations, discussion and interactive exercises. Learn more  
Opportunities on a National Level
- NEW PUBLICATION: Hitting The Open Road After High School- How to Choose Your Own Adventure to Success!
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth recently published a great resource to help youth with disabilities prepare for the future. This publication helps you think about your options and plan ahead. View this publication

Did you know that there is a documentary movie all about dyslexia? Dislecksia: The Movie features many famous people with dyslexia and educates others about everyday life with this disability. This documentary can even be used in school settings or for groups to view. Learn more and watch the trailer

- Some games on iPads can oftentimes be too overwhelming for kids with certain types of disabilities. But, did you know that there is one game that can actually help social interaction among children with autism? In Zody's World: The Clock Catastrophe, players are drawn into a quest to help a quirky professor find the lost parts to his invention. Players are required to communicate to solve a variety of strategy and social problems. Download the app

- A group is Houston, Texas is looking to gain information about self-esteem in women with spinal cord injuries. Do you fit this category? Then you might consider providing your own experiences. The cool part is, you don't even have to leave your own home! This study takes place online in a virtual environment. Learn more 

- Learn more about how federal agencies can help you or your youth have a successful transition after high school. Federal Partners in Transition will host a webinar on November 10 that will help attendees to understand the role that federal resources can play in a youth's transition. The event is open to the transition community, including students and youth with disabilities, their family members, practitioners, vocational rehabilitation counselors, educators, agencies and other partners. Register now
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 Updates
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KSYLF Seeking Delegates and Volunteers for 2016!  

KSYLF logo with dove It's that time again! KYEA is currently searching for potential youth leaders to attend our 16th 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 2016 KSYLF will be held July 11-16 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 as of December 31, 2015
  • have demonstrated leadership potential in school and the community

Five delegates from KSYLF 2015 take a picture with their arms around each other's shoulders Interested students must fill out an application that will be reviewed through a competitive selection process. The application deadline for the 2016 forum is December 15, 2015.

Calling all former and potentially new volunteers! We are also now accepting applications for volunteers for our 2016 KSYLF. We are searching for committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program. Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate youth with disabilities? Then consider serving as a volunteer at this year's KSYLF.

A group of 2015 delegates pose for a photo before the dance Past volunteers, KSYLF alumni, and new volunteers are encouraged to apply! Volunteer applicants must fill out our application form, as well as two background checks, and send to the KYEA office by February 5, 2016.

Learn more about KSYLF


Print a KSYLF Application 

"We don't want pity; we want paychecks.  Living in a capitalist society, we understand and believe in the importance of  employment.  In America, a paycheck doesn't only symbolize money, but it also stands for respect, worth, and independence."
-- Josie Badger, Advocate and Leader from Pennsylvania 
Disability Mentoring Day Held Throughout the State
Hutchinson DMD plans for 157 participants!

October 21 is Disability Mentoring Day across the nation. Various areas throughout our state are recognizing this important day by holding their own individual events this fall. One area recalls below how they got started and the many successes of their DMD today! 
by Roger Frischenmeyer, Hutchinson DMD Coordinator

Students from a past Hutchinson DMD gather around a table

So often, when meeting new people, one of the first questions asked is, "what do you do for a living?" For many people with disabilities, that question is very difficult to answer because, while we do live our lives, in many cases, our lives don't include employment. It isn't that people with disabilities don't want to work, but the opportunities to find employment can be few and far between. These were the discussions we were having 14 years ago when we heard about a program called Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), which allowed people with disabilities to learn about work and employers to learn about an untapped pool of potential workers.

I will never forget our first DMD in Hutchinson, because we practically had to beg people to participate. We finally ended up with 19 high school students, and I am still convinced that the teachers allowed them to participate only so I would leave them alone. Yet, from the first year, the program has steadily grown. This year, in our Hutchinson area, we will have 157 participants, and, in our Pratt area, we will have around 125 students who will be placed in 1 on 1 job shadowing experiences. Not only will it impact the youth who are learning about work, but the employers are learning about potential future employees and the myth that people with disabilities can't work is being broken down.

I will share two of my favorite stories that have happened over the years from our DMD. First, I remember this girl who wanted to work in a restaurant. We got her placed in a local restaurant, and they let her do everything that you could do in that type of business. She waited tables, she bussed tables, she worked in the kitchen and she did dishes. At the end of the day, she had done such a good job that they offered her a job. She thanked them and then turned down the job, because, after her experience, she never wanted to work in a restaurant again. The second story happened one night when I was in Dillons. I was checking out and this young man was talking to me like we had known each other for years. Clearly he knew who I was, but I had no idea who he was. As I was getting ready to walk away, he told me that he had participated in DMD and that had helped him get the job at Dillons.

There are so many stories I have heard over the years about how this program has helped youth learn about employment. As one student from 2014 put it, "I am glad they had this program, because it gave me opportunities to learn about work."

Disability Mentoring Day logo

Want to get involved in your local Disability Mentoring Day?

There are active DMD's in approximately 15 areas throughout our state. Each one is typically held on a different day, but many are usually held in the fall. Find one near you and take advantage of this great opportunity to see first-hand if a job is for you!

View the DMD area contacts
Learn more about DMD on a national level
"Employment is important to people with disabilities for the same reasons it is important to everyone. That is why we must fight to change the narrative for our sisters and brothers with disabilities when it comes to entering the workforce."
-- Michael Beers, Advocate and Leader from Montana 
To Disclose or Not to Disclose
One youth shares how to incorporate disability into the job search process
Thomas Burke knows to put his best foot forward when applying for a job. He has learned the ability to be up front and honest about his disabilities, but also use those disabilities as an asset in his jobs. Thomas shares some of his tips below based on his personal experiences...

by Thomas Burke, KSYLF Alumni 2007

Thomas Burke When my disability started to limit the amount of physically and mentally stressful activities I could do, I started modifying my career goals to fit with my changing needs. I found a field where I could still work on a subject I love (microbiology) and work at a desk instead of a laboratory. Either in my application, cover letter, or interview, I now mention this change in priorities and how my disability has given me a passion in fighting for better public health.

My first internship did not happen until late into my program. Getting an interview was, and still is, difficult for me. Part of what helped getting that first job was framing a story for the employer. I tried to include all skills gained in my life (including "soft skills," like communication and writing) that were relevant to the job in my resume and then explained my life and work history further in my cover letter.

In my cover letter to the Department of Agriculture, I stated that I needed to concentrate on my health and studies when my disability prevented me from working. However, I noted that I do have both the perspective of a patient and a health professional, and it is a definite strength in the field. And, coming from Kansas State, I know a thing or two about agriculture. Intertwining my personal and professional history has helped me, because the two are linked. My disability has influence on the paths I pick, and it is part of who I am.

Thomas currently lives in Georgia, is pursuing his Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology, and is an intern at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Division. He has fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder, with psychiatric complications.
Work Early, Work Often!
Meredith Raymond believes in this slogan and has lived it! Watch the video below to hear Meredith's success story of working hard to achieve employment success. She has some great tips to share! 

Meredith Raymond speaks into the camera
Community Power! 
Circle with different types of disability logos Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state 
Independent Living Resource Center, Wichita

Estin Talavera, KSYLF Alumni from Wichita, gives us the full scoop on what ILRC has to offer!

Independent Living Resource Center logo

The Independent Living Resource Center of Wichita, or ILRC-Wichita, is a tremendous place to be. Due to its many programs and services for people with disabilities, it is easy to get involved. It is located downtown and has 16 staff members. ILRC provides services from helping businesses stay compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to providing various support groups for local consumers. For example, one such group focuses on moving and staying active. One of the five core services that ILRC provides is helping people with disabilities make their homes more accessible (Independent Living Skills) and get the services that they need to live independently. The ILRC-Wichita only serves two counties: Sedgwick and Sumner.

The ILRC-Wichita has many programs, but one of the areas that they feel needs more attention is with youth between ages 18 and 32. They feel that other places are serving the younger youth, but this age group is currently under served. ILRC wants to do something about this! And so, enter the idea of a new program called Greater Expectations. The Center bought a flower shop to employ people with disabilities. They will have the opportunity to work with customers, stock shelves, and work the cash register. Participants will also have help with developing resumes and completing job applications for their future job-searches. After some time in the program, participants will be evaluated for their next steps in their employment journey. This program is just starting, and it is very exciting to see how it will bloom.

For more information on ILRC programs, contact ILRC at 316-942-630 or visit their website at
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Be on the lookout for our holiday issue coming in December!