Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Happy Fall, friends! Oh, and I guess we could say Happy Thanksgiving too! As always, it has been a very busy last few months for KYEA with starting a new partnership, recruiting for programs, conducting programs, etc, etc. Read all about our latest happenings below!
Since this month is Thanksgiving, we decided to focus our theme on something that we should be, and ARE, thankful for... our disabilities! Now, some of you might think I'm crazy when I say, be thankful for your disability, but, at KYEA, we choose to look at the positive side of our disabilities, and we hope you do too! Not every day is easy, and we get that, but think of how your life has been shaped by your disability. Think of all of the people that you know because of your disability. Think of the amazing disability community that has changed history. THAT is disability pride, and THAT is what we are focusing on this month!
This will be our last newsletter of 2017, so we have also included our Top 10 KYEA Moments of the Year... always fun to compile! Read on for this and more!
Not only are we thankful for our disabilities, but we are so thankful for YOU! Yes, YOU! As our friends, supporters, alumni, volunteers, etc, you all show us so much support and love throughout the year. We could not ask for a better KYEA family. We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, and we'll see you in 2018!
- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator
Through Julia's Eyes
by Julia Connellis, Executive Director
"I Can. I Will!"
When I was introduced to the independent living philosophy, I heard the phrase "disability pride." How could those two powerful words be placed together?? Up until the age of 25, I would never have placed those words together. For me, there was no pride attached to my disabilities. Recently, a young adult asked if I had accepted all of my disabilities. My answer was "yes, I have accepted and am proud of my disabilities." This does not mean that I am always happy about them or that they don't become a pain in my rear sometimes. Being proud does not mean you have to shout it from the rooftops or act happy about it all the time. Let me break it down...
Acceptance is like a pimple- you know it is there; it is a fact whether you like it or not. You don't talk about it, and you hide it. You hate it when others talk about it, and, frankly, if you could burn it off, you would. Pride is like having a scar. The bigger picture is that a scar makes you look dangerous in a cool way. When people ask, you don't mind telling the story. You don't make it your entire being, but it has a place in your life, and you appreciate it. Scars may stick out, cause irritations, and sometimes be a focal point.
The thing is, all of my disabilities are what makes Julia, Julia! And the same goes for you! Imagine how many opportunities you wouldn't have if you did not have your disability or the numerous people you have met because of it! It is ultimately your choice whether you wear your disability as a badge of honor and strength or hide it and always be afraid others will judge you for it. At the end of the day, we ALL judge. So leave others with a good judgement and wear your disabilities with PRIDE!
KYEA Begins New Collaboration with Pre-ETS
Empower Me Workshops reach youth with disabilities across the state
The participants, Pre-ETS staff, and KYEA staff at the Pre-ETS Empower Me Workshop in Wichita smile for a group photo at the end of the day.
KYEA is reaching even more youth across the state and encouraging employment success through a new collaboration with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). In this next year, KYEA will be providing Empower Me workshops in 10 different locations. Each workshop is a full day of learning how to be successful in employment. Workshops are open to Pre-ETS students, and the participants learn everything from resume writing to job interviewing, from employment soft skills to post-secondary options and more! KYEA works alongside Pre-ETS Specialists in order to make the day a success.
Stop #1... Wichita! KYEA and Pre-ETS staff jumped right in during the month of September and hosted the first Empower Me Workshop at the DCF office in Wichita on September 26. Nineteen fantastic youth from this area gathered to learn all about jobs, career exploration, soft skills in the workplace, and so much more. They left with Empowerment Plans, resources, new connections, and even some new friendships.
Thanks to the youth who attended the workshop! It was fun day with lots of laughs and even more learning. Thanks also to the enthusiastic Pre-ETS staff who instantly welcomed us into their team for the day!
Our first Pre-ETS Empower Me Workshop was a definite success, and we look forward to going on the road in the coming months. Check out our other scheduled dates and, if you qualify, talk to your Pre-ETS Specialist about attending:
November 29- Garden City
February 5- Topeka
February 21- Emporia
KYEA Top 10 Moments of 2017!
Yes, we know we are one month early, but this will be our last newsletter issue before the new year starts. So, we couldn't end the year without reminiscing about 2017! As always, lots of great moments... some funny, some surprising, and definitely lots of happy, memorable times. Check out those moments that stand out to the KYEA staff (in no particular order)...
1. The Faces of Change team members deciding to create their own t-shirt.
2. Hosting our first Pre-Employment Transition Services Empower Me Workshop in Wichita- awesome youth and a fantastic new collaboration
3. Eating at Braum's on business trips - French fry heaven!
4. Getting random positive messages from youth.
5. The KSYLF dance! There was just something special about this one.
6. When Madonna (our office puppy) ate a cigarette during an outdoor bathroom break.
7. Having Rosie on our staff team and seeing her around the office more.
8. Julia's Birthday Lunch- what a great time surrounded by our youth and our office neighbors.
9. Getting to know the Faces of Change Team Members on a more personal level.
10. Lunch conversations... enough said! Too many laughs to count!
Our therapeutic manager learns to celebrate differences
Did you know that dogs can have disabilities too? Even Madonna has learned that her and her friends differences do not make them bad. They make then unique and wonderful!
Wufello (hello) to all my humans out there! It's getting colder outside and mom is beginning to make me wear sweaters. This makes me look different than my other animal friends, but I think I look wufonderful (wonderful). There have been a lot of humans, and even some doggie friends, stopping by my office lately, which has me chewing my tail with anxiety. Even though I try to hide my habit, my co-wuforkers (co-workers) take care of me and keep me calm. One of my doggie friends, her name is Kathryn, but I call her Kat, has only 3 paws, but we still wuf (rough) around together. No matter what your difference is, prance around with your tail held high and know you are wuved (loved)!
Have a wagulous (fabulous) day!
Are you thankful for your disability? Are you "Disabled and Proud?"
If you answered no to these questions, then you should read the rest of this newsletter. If you answered yes, then you still should read on! Disability pride is at the core of our mission at KYEA. We want every single youth who comes through our doors to learn to have pride in being a person with a disability. What does this mean? It can mean something different to everyone, but, to us, it means having a sense of pride and positive connection to your disability and the disability community. Having disability pride helps us to feel good about ALL of who we are and know that there is a whole community of people out there like us!
Read the articles below to see many reasons why YOU should have disability pride! But start with the article below, written by Kings Floyd from the Natl. Council on Independent Living. We really couldn't have said it better ourselves...
Another Take on Disability Pride...
The National Council on Independent Living recently published this awesome toolkit completely focused on disability pride. This toolkit not only explains disability pride, but reminds us that there are other things that make us unique and that we have a rich history. Read on for the full scoop...
"Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide"
developed by Kings Floyd, National Council on Independent Living
What is Disability Pride?
Disability Pride is the idea that people with disabilities should be proud of their disabled identity. People with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority within the population, representing all abilities, ages, races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds.
Disability pride focuses on the social model of disability. The disability community views the social model as more positive than the medical model, which is often used to subdue and/or place the individual in a less-empowered role.
Why do we need Disability Pride?
Why is it important for people of all ages to feel pride? Many disabled people, including young people, are exposed on a regular basis to ableism. Ableism is present throughout society, and can take the form of condescending, rude, or abusive attitudes towards people with disabilities, leading to lack of accessible and inclusive services and communities.
How can you start the conversation?
We encourage young people to talk about what they are already proud of, and incorporating disability into that conversation as a natural part of their identity. However, it can be hard for some to talk about what they are proud of. Start with what they are passionate about, and ask them to set goals. Raising self-confidence by achieving goals is a great way to motivate. It is important to discuss how pride and self-love do not develop overnight. Pride in yourself comes from many places, but it isn't made overnight.
First-Hand View of Living with a Disability
Sean Tyree, Topeka
How can you be proud to have a disability that causes pain, frustration, and also gets worse over time? This is one question that people might ask high school student, Sean Tyree. Sean knows that having a disability is not always easy, but, in spite of that, he chooses to focus on the positive. Check out Sean's take on this thing called disability pride...
by Sean Tyree, KYEA volunteer
DISABILITY PRIDE. What does this mean? Pride can mean "especially proud of a particular quality or skill" OR "a group, like a lion's pride."
My jock friends think I am a weak. I say, try having a 6 inch screw manually screwed out of your toe with no pain medications and then come talk to me. How about experiencing excruciating foot and back pain on a daily basis and acting like nothing is wrong? How about knowing your condition will only get worse? If that is weak, then I don't know what strong is...
"Pain is inevitable, but misery is a choice." I feel pride that I have chosen mental toughness. Toughness is "our ability to absorb and handle adversity while keeping a level head." I have a chronic and progressive disability. What comes with this is lifelong cycles of denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance as you lose abilities.
I can focus on what I have lost or what I have gained. I've chosen to focus on what I have gained. What have I gained? DISABILITY PRIDE!
Every day is a gift
I am adaptable
I am flexible
I don't sweat the small stuff
I have courage
I am compassionate
I am loyal
I am no longer afraid to share that I have a disability
I no longer care if people don't accept me for who I am... I am SEAN, I have a disability.
The Talent Pool!
Showing off the many skills of youth with disabilities in Kansas
Local high school student, Cameron McClacherty, shows off his writing skills by bringing us his take on disability pride. Check out his awesome fiction story below...
"Little Della Dolphin: Neptune's Great Race!"
by Cameron McClacherty, Washburn Rural High School, Topeka
Della, the little dolphin, had always wanted to race in Neptune's Great Dolphin race since she was a young calf. However, Della was not born with a tail that went up and down vertically in the water to travel faster, as most dolphins are. She was instead born with a tail that moved side to side, making her pace slower than every other dolphin participating in the race. Because of this, she wore a brace to better align her tail with the rest of her body to give her extra support. When Della went to sign up to be a participant, the other dolphins told her that she, even with the brace, would not be able to swim as fast as them. They jeered and laughed at her brace, telling her that she still would not be fast enough to beat them with it. Like the tough little dolphin she was, though their words hurt her feelings, she did not let their tactics discourage her from entering. Della practiced for three weeks before the race, setting up her own obstacle course with the help of her friends and family. Each day, up until then, she kept practicing; she, in turn, became quicker. On the day of the race, she took number 68. By the time the seahorse cannons to start the race went off, Della had already passed numbers 48, 28, 10, and so on. She darted and dashed all the way to the finish line, leaving her opponents in her bubbles! She won! She beamed with excitement, holding a big trophy! When asked by her antagonizers how she beat them with that brace on her tail, Della humbly and calmly replied that her disability does not define her, and that she set her mind on winning!
Question of the Month
What makes you proud to be a person with a disability?
I am proud, since my disability has helped uncover parts of myself that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. If it weren't for the experiences that have led me up to today, I don't think I would've had the strength and endurance to do some of the things that I'm doing right now.
- Ashlee Thao, KSYLF Alumna '17
I can reach someone no one else can. Be a good voice for the people who have no voice.
- Kelly Abrahamian
That I can do everything everyone else can do, just in a different way :).
- Seth Wagner, KSYLF Alumni '12
Getting to teach people of all ages something they didn't know about and opening their eyes to different situations they don't normally deal with on a daily basis.
- Neva Camarena, KSYLF Alumna '03
I get to understand, emphasize, and be comfortable around people with disabilities.
- Allison Wilkes, ICON alumna
I love that we get to see life differently than others.
- LeAnne Saulsbury, KSYLF Alumna '17
Getting the chance to have an equal opportunity as anyone else no matter what comes my way and to let them hear my voice.
- Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni '11
Knowing that life is 2x as challenging, yet, I am accomplishing my goals in life!
- Morgan Strnad, KSYLF Alumna '10
That I managed to make a beautiful baby boy that I love to death. I am proud of myself for not giving up on the pregnancy.
- Monica Long, KSYLF Alumna '11
Growing up, I thought I was an outcast because, being from a smaller community, diversity is very limited. As I got into college, I felt more accepted by my peers because of the wide diversity at Emporia State University. During college, I opened up about my hearing impairment and I now have forever friends because of their acceptance. Currently, I'm most proud about my disability is that my oldest daughter is hearing impaired too. I now get to share this special bond with her and give her guidance as she goes
through each step of her life.
- Danielle Willcott, KSYLF Alumna '07
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
Families Together has many great opportunities coming up in the new year!
They will be having a Family Employment Awareness Training in January and February and their statewide Together We Can Learn Conference in February. Check out all of their events
- Do you know an adult woman or a young lady who is wheelchair mobile and has a voice that they need to share?
Ms. Wheelchair Kansas
is currently searching for women of achievement to serve as contestants in the 2018 event. They are also searching for
Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas
contestants. Little Miss recognizes young spirited girls, ages 5-12, who are wheelchair mobile. Both chosen titleholders have the unique opportunity to empower and educate people in our state. Applications for both programs are due by January 7, 2018. For full details, visit the
Opportunities on a National Level
Do you want to get more youth involved in your CIL or organization? Then you might consider participating in APRIL's Youth Topical Calls. Their next call will be on the topic of
"Strengthening Youth Involvement in Your CIL."
This call will be held on December 6.
- SCHOLARSHIP! Autistic Scholars Fellowship
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is requesting applications for its Autistic Scholars Fellowship, which provides four to six college students with autism with $5,000 tuition scholarships. The scholarships promote leadership opportunities and help the students create systemic change on their college campuses. Students eligible for the fellowship must establish or participate in a leadership role within a disability rights student organization, work to promote Autistic culture and community, and take steps to improve disability accessibility and inclusion on their campuses. Act fast though! Scholarship applications are due by November 19!
- Do you have an interest in working for a large business or corporation some day? Then you might want to check out this great mentoring opportunity-
the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program
. This program is a six-month career mentoring opportunity for at least 100 college students and recent graduates with disabilities. Participants are linked with business professionals from USBLN partner companies. Mentees meet and interact with business professionals in their field of study or area of interest and whom they would not otherwise have access to. Applications are now being accepted.
- The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities needs your feedback! They are conducting interviews for a
study on how young adults with disabilities participate in social and community events
in rural areas. Participants must be 18 to 34 years old, be in or from a town of less than 10,000 people, and have had an IEP in high school and/or a current disability. Participation involves a 1 to 2 hour interview and participants will be compensated for their time. For more information, contact Rayna Sage, PhD, at 406-243-5233 or
- Are you a US resident (Age 18+) who uses a service animal or other animal that assists you with your disability? If not, are you the parent of a child who uses such an animal? If so, the Southwest ADA Center would like to learn about your experiences with accessing public places with your animal.
Take the survey
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!
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KS Youth Leadership Forum Seeking Delegates and Volunteers
It's that time again! KYEA is currently searching for potential youth leaders to attend our 18th 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 2018 KSYLF will be held July 9-14 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, 2017
- have demonstrated leadership potential in school and the community
Interested students must fill out an application that will be reviewed through a competitive selection process. The application deadline for the 2018 forum is December 15, 2017.
Calling all former and potentially new volunteers! We are also now accepting applications for volunteers for our 2018 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.
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, 2018.
Learn more about KSYLF
Print an application
Faces of Change Prepares for New Class in 2018... Seeking Applicants!
Are you someone with leadership skills who would like to use your skills to change your community? Faces of Change is taking applications for our 2018 class.
Faces of Change is a leadership program offered by KYEA, designed for young adults between the ages of 17 through 25 years old. Faces is an advanced leadership training and focuses on civic engagement and commitment to others.
The goal of Faces is for you to sharpen your existing leadership skills, as well as explore what leadership style works for you. This program is geared to assist you in learning about motivating others, various communication styles, working as a team, using mentors for guidance in leadership, and creating a community change project. Faces aids you in exploring a change that you wish to make in your community. You will make new connections with peers and with innovative speakers who are leaders from across Kansas.
Faces meets one weekend per month for seven months in Topeka. There are fun and challenging group activities and after hours opportunities to socialize. Oh yeah, did we mention it is free?! Have we piqued your interest yet?
If you are interested in applying, please contact us by email at email@example.com to get your application. There is a process for applying and being accepted, but don't get nervous about that, just get your application and get started. Applications are due no later than January 14, 2018.
Faces of Change Participants Working on Community Change Projects!
Faces of Change 2017 is coming to an end, but team members are still going strong 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 Autism Support Group specifically for young adults with disabilities below created by Faces team member, Whit Downing.
Autism Support Group Provides Safe Space for Young Adults to be Supported
by Whit Downing, Faces of Change Team Member
Are you a young adult ages 18-30 on the Autism spectrum? I coordinate an Autism Support Group that meets on the second Wednesday of each month. We meet at Easter Seals Capper Foundation in Topeka (3500 SW 10th Ave). The mission of the support group is to create a safe-haven for young adults with Autism to build friendship and feel supported. We have a lot of fun at the group meetings, get to know each other, and just be ourselves. We are always looking for new members to join us! I hope to see you there! For more information, contact Whit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Reasons to Be Proud
7 Ways that people with disabilities have made an impact
Pride can come from a lot of things, but, for many people, pride in our disability community comes from knowing that our people have made a difference! Our disability community has made strides that have changed our nation for the better. Check these out and see, does this make you proud?
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant
Need some inspiration on how you may make a mark on the world? Here are some examples of how people with disabilities are changing the world!
The passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1994
- This law was and, still is, a game changer in the recognition of people with disabilities to fully participate in society. And people with disabilities made it happen!
New influence on product design
- Accommodations for people with disabilities are good for everyone! Wheels on suitcases, larger print on appliances, and blended curbs all originated as adaptations for people with disabilities.
More diversity in television programs
- Glee, Speechless, and The Good Doctor all have main characters that are more realistic and a positive depiction of people with disabilities.
When you see a bus with a wheelchair lift, you are witnessing the fruits of ADAPT's advocacy with the Denver transit system.
ADAPT specializes in nonviolent civil disobedience for the disability community and has used this form of advocacy to create change over the years.
Recent advocacy by people with disabilities made a huge impact.
Influencing the U.S. Congress to deny the passage of "repeal and replace of Obamacare" was a large step for all. The individuals involved made the news and broadcast political shows.
Ever heard of Einstein's theory of relativity? Or physicist Steven Hawking who has stated artificial intelligence could be dangerous to humankind? These two people with disabilities have rocked the world with their scientific theories.
Changing the "face of beauty"
- Heather Whitestone was the first woman with a disability to be crowned Miss America in 1995 showing the nation that people with disabilities can be beautiful. Recently, many models with Down Syndrome and those with amputations have been featured in ad campaigns.
Up Close and Personal
THIS is what disability pride looks like!
There are so many awesome, dynamic people with disabilities in our world! These people show us the many sides of what it means to have disability pride. Be empowered as you check out three people below who embrace their differences and live life to the fullest!
(click on the video to watch)
"I got 99 problems... palsy is just one"
"Mental illness is an asset"
"Beyond face value"
Look On the Bright Side
10 Perks of having a disability
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni
Those of us who live with disabilities certainly understand the various challenges that can arise in our lives on a daily basis. For me, something as simple as picking up a pencil off the ground can turn into a 15-minute chore. Despite the challenges, no matter how difficult they may be, certain aspects of having a disability can create a unique and awesome experiences for all of us. I am going to highlight 10 perks of having a disability. I hope you enjoy!
1. Adaptive Sports
Adaptive sports can include a variety of people with disabilities. They're not only a great way to connect with other people with disabilities, but they allow you to get exercise. A few examples include basketball, hockey, soccer, bowling, and track.
2. Front row seats
Who doesn't like being close to the performers when you pay good money to see a concert or a magic show? Oftentimes, people with disabilities get exclusive access to some of the best seats in the house! Although this is not a guarantee, it is certainly something to capitalize on if the opportunity presents itself.
3. Advocacy and Support Groups
The disability community is arguably one of the most vast and diverse populations in the world. As a result, many folks with disabilities come together and discuss issues they are impacted by.
4. Free Legal Services
As a person with a disability, you can get access to free legal supports if you are having trouble with a disability rights issue in your community. If you feel you have been discriminated against, or if you have general questions regarding your rights as a person with a disability, free legal services are a phone call away.
Although these rules are sometimes difficult to enforce, communities are required to be accessible for people with disabilities. A small list of examples include automatic doors, grab bars, audio signals, extra clearance, and more!
6. A different perspective
In my opinion, one of the best perks of having a disability is showing those who do not have disabilities what it's like living in your shoes. Until people are educated, they often don't realize what it would be like if they were to become disabled.
7. You get to park closer than everyone else
Those accessibility requirements also include requirements for parking spaces. These allow us to park closer than people who are not disabled, and some of them even give us extra space to load and unload our mobility equipment.
8. We can request modifications based on our individual needs
Whether you have autism, a mental health disability, a physical disability, or have a visual impairment, you can request that your school or employer give you access to reasonable accommodations in order to create a level playing field between students or employees.
9. Service / Emotional Support Animals
Service animals can help a variety of individuals who have disabilities with everyday tasks. You not only have a personal assistant to accompany you, but you can also reach down and comfort your pet anytime you want!
10. Assistive Technology
Luckily, for people with disabilities, we can get access to some pretty awesome equipment that can help us. I was able to type this entire article using nothing but my voice! These newer technologies can help make our lives easier and save us a bunch of time.
Well, there you have it. Ten perks of having a disability. So when the times get rough, remember to show your pride and love all of the awesome things your disability can provide to you!
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
Topeka Independent Living Resource Center
Next up in our CIL feature is TILRC in Topeka! Whit Downing, Faces of Change team member, shares what makes TILRC unique and youth friendly!
Tenacious. That is one word that Amy Hyten used to describe the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center (TILRC), where she is Co-Executive Director. TILRC, made up of approximately eighteen staff members, is a CIL that serves people with disabilities in Shawnee County. In Amy's words, "a CIL is a collective of people who provide services, advocacy, problem solving, networking, and peer support for people with disabilities."
There are many ways that youth with disabilities can get involved at TILRC, and that is part of what makes TILRC unique. TILRC has an emphasis on empowering those with disabilities, educating them, and providing information. The Board of Directors for TILRC has a Youth Advisory Board that youth can join. In addition to the youth advisory board, TILRC offers a paid internship program for youth, ages 14-19, that is called the George Wolf Internship. TILRC also offers skills training, financial management services, peer counseling, medical equipment support, and assistive technology support.
Being independent as a person with a disability is possible. One piece of advice that Amy would like you to know is that with rights come responsibilities, and it's important to exercise both.
TILRC is certainly a unique place. When the staff at TILRC see a need, they do their best to "make things happen." If you have questions about TILRC's services, you may contact Evan Korynta at (785) 233-4572, or stop by in Topeka at 501 SW Jackson Street, Suite 100.
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 January!
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