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

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #36
August 2016 
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: KS Youth Leadership Forum Hosts 17 Youth Leaders
:: Leaders Recognized at Mentor Luncheon
:: Madonna's Corner
:: Spotlight On: Dezirae La Barbera
:: Your IEP: the Full Scoop
:: Social Skills Videos
:: Helpful Apps for the School Year
:: State and National Opportunities
:: Faces of Change Going Strong
:: KYEA Completes 6th EMS Workshop
:: Pep Talk for the School Year
:: High School vs. College
:: Create an Exciting School Year!
:: Movie Review: Finding Dory
:: Community Power: PILR in Hutchinson

Girl holding a book open with learning symbols flowing out of the book
It's August, and that means BACK TO SCHOOL! We hope that you have started your school year off with old and new friends, awesome classes, and a belief that you are going to have a wonderful year! In order to help you a little bit with that wonderful year, we have dedicated, once again, our August issue to Back to School topics. This month's newsletter is full of articles related to making this the best year yet. Check it all out below!

As you can imagine, our summer, at KYEA, was so busy! But, we like it that way! Our programs were in full force as we had our 16th Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, our 6th Empower Me! Series workshop, and continued our 1st round of Faces of Change sessions. Through all of these programs, we have added 32 youth to our KYEA family! Whew... now we're exhausted. Just kidding... we are pumped up and ready to expand our mentoring services, conduct more sessions of Faces, and plan our Empower Me! schedule for the upcoming months! Take a look at all of our exciting news below and don't forget to frequently check out our website or LIKE us on Facebook.

Have a fantastic beginning of your school year, and we'll be back with another issue in October! But first, read on...

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

Every July, during the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, I gladly hand over the boss reigns to Carrie, our Program Coordinator. I fade into the background, support Carrie, get to know the delegates, and take care of any major crisis that may occur. Yes, I still have to make decisions, but I am not the one running the show. This year, on the first day, Carrie said that she needed me to help co-facilitate a small group for the entire week. I freaked out on the inside and said "yes" on the outside. I was scared. While I have done this before, my body does not handle the intensity very well. I absolutely did NOT want to do it, but did I throw a tantrum? Well maybe some small ones... but then I did what I had to do. With the support of the leaders in my group, Johnna, Richard, and Mackenzie, I made it through!

With the busy life you lead, you WILL be asked to do something that frightens you. You will complain, you will go into defensive mode, and you might even panic. GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!!! You got this! Kick fear in the caboose and see this challenge as an adventure. You have been asked to do something because the person believes in you. And, if you don't want to do something just because you don't like it, that is okay to feel as well. We all have those moments... daily.

With every challenge you take on, whether it is a science assignment at school, a job, meeting new people, and the list could go on; you are not alone in your fear. Remember that it takes courage to try something for the first time, and it takes character to continue to do it when you don't want to!
Kansas Youth Leadership Forum Hosts 17 Youth Leaders!
Delegates learn to embrace and celebrate their many labels  
The '16 KSYLF delegates with the Governor.
The 2016 KSYLF delegates pose for a group photo in the Governor's office with Governor Sam Brownback during the Day at the Capital.
Smart, funny, quiet, outgoing, artist, athlete, dreamer, different, leader, person with a disability... all labels that have been given to high school students across our state. This year's Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF) delegates learned to embrace thei KSYLF dove logor unique labels throughout the week of this 16th annual program. Seventeen delegates gathered for the week to learn about leadership, advocacy, and goal setting, and, in the process, they learned to celebrate all of who they are with a theme of "Own Your Labels: Differences Make Us Stronger!" All who attended this year's Forum left with a new confidence and a better understanding of how differences build stronger leaders and stronger communities!

This year's KSYLF was held on July 12 - 16, 2016 at Washburn University in Topeka. Seventeen unique, motivated young leaders with disabilities attended the Forum. There were 17 staff members present throughout the week, including four KSYLF alumni who returned to serve as volunteers and share their experiences.

The 2016 KSYLF delegates and volunteers in the Capital Rotunda. The KSYLF week was one not to forget! It was full of lasting memories, moments of growth, celebration of disability pride, genuine learning moments, and building of new friendships. This year's delegates were motivated to learn and develop into strong leaders. They started the week, early on, sharing experiences of their disabilities and bonding as a group. By week's end, a new family had been formed!

This year's Mentor Luncheon keynote speaker was Nina G., who is a comedian, motivational speaker, author, and advocate from California. Nina's story truly connected with the delegates as she shared her journey of using her unique abilities and experiences to become a great advocate and leader.
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.

Dylan Trammell
The Justin Cosco Award was presented to Dylan Trammell, 2014 KSYLF Alumni, who has blossomed to become a determined, successful asset to his community. Dylan has worked through many obstacles and is not letting anything stop him from reaching his goals.

Lindsey Krom Craven holding her award
Spirit of Hope Award, in memory of John Peterson, was given to
Lindsey Krom-Craven of Great Bend. Lindsey is a true advocate for her son with a disability and works to make sure that children with disabilities get the services that they need.

Vicki Richardson holding her award
The Mentoring Matters Award was given to
Vicki Richardson, also of Great Bend. Vicki has worked with people with disabilities for more than 35 years. She currently works for Sunflower Diversified Services, but has also mentored 100's of youth as an educator and volunteer in the social services field.
Madonna- a small, furry, white dog Madonna's Corner!  
Our therapeutic manager speaks out on accommodations  

Did you know that our awesome little Madonna has anxiety? She does! Check out her tips on how to deal with anxiety, or other disabilities, as you are going back to school.  
It sure has been wuf (rough) around the dog house (KYEA office) the past couple of months!  My people (KYEA staff) have been keeping my paws moving as they hustle around the dog house preparing for programs.  A pedicure needs to be in my future with all of the supervision I have been doing following everyone around!  Speaking of my paws, I would like to growl (groan) about my tail.  As much as I wuve (love) my duty as therapeutic manager at the dog house, my anxiety has been annoying me.  I wuve (love) my people, but the dog house makes me nervous so I begin to chew on my tail.  I chew it so much that it begins to look funny.  I don't know if you have seen my tail, but it is way too cute to be looking funny.  I am worried my play friends will laugh at me.  

I know all of you must be nervous too about obedience training (school) starting.  Do you bite your tail like I do?  Well, hold on to your collar because I have the answer for you!  When my mommy (Julia) brings me to the dog house, she closes me in her office with her for part of the day.  While her job is hard, it is sooo boring, so she lets me out and lets me do my therapeutic management at different times of the day.  Mommy has even left me home by myself when she feels I am going to be overwhelmed.  She calls this an accommodation.  

Don't be afraid to ask for accommodations when you are at school.  It helps so much!  Don't let your tail suffer over something that can be helped.

I wuf you and have a wagulous (fabulous) day!
- Madonna

(Okay, so our furry friend cannot really talk, but sometimes it seems like she has a lot to say. So, we decided to give her a spot in our newsletter.... complete with a few translations here and there :). Let us know what you think and if you'd like to see more articles from Madonna's perspective in future newsletters. She sure enjoyed writing this one!) 
Spotlight On!

Freshman Year- A Transition to Remember: Dezirae La Barbera, Shawnee Heights High School, Topeka

by Dallas Hathaway, Newsletter Writer

Dezirae La Barbera

Over the last couple of weeks, students all across Kansas have been sharpening their pencils and loading up their backpacks in preparation for school to start. Incoming freshman, Dezirae La Barbera, recently started her Fall semester at Shawnee Heights High School in Topeka, Kansas.

When asked about how the transition into high school is going, Dezirae mentioned how she has a lot more independence and that the teachers trust her to do her own thing.

"The lunches are better, too," said La Barbera.

Dezirae is enjoying the new subjects as well.

"I really like geography because it is kind of hard," she said. "I can actually challenge myself."

Another subject Dezirae mentioned she enjoys is English.

"I like to write stories and poems; it allows me to really express myself," La Barbera said.

Dezirae is a student with a disability who uses a power wheelchair. She mentioned it can be hard for her to talk to people because she is shy. Before starting the semester, her father gave her a bit of encouragement by saying that she would make more friends because the students are more mature in high school. Like any student, she faces challenges, and she knows what she has to do to meet her goals.

As for her high school plans, Dezirae signed up for the international club. She also plans to join a book club and the videogame club in the near future. In her spare time, she enjoys watching YouTube videos on her laptop. She also likes spending time with family watching movies and playing board games.

Dezirae has some advice to give for someone else who might be making the transition into high school.

"It is not as scary as it sounds. People will probably hang out with disabled people because they want to expand their horizons," she said. "People want to talk to me; I just have to be myself."

Good luck to Dezirae and all the students who are starting their new year. Make this year one to remember!   
Your IEP: The Full Scoop on Your Plan and Your Rights

If you have an IEP, you might be wondering, why in the world should I care about this plan and that boring meeting that I have to attend? You SHOULD care because it's a plan that focuses on you, your success, and your future! Why wouldn't you want to have a say in that? As a new school years begins, we wanted to put the IEP in youth-friendly terms so that everyone can understand. Get the scoop on your rights below... 
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

Your IEP- paper with star on it It's time to get your class and your IEP on! Can I get a woop woop?! What is an IEP, you ask? It is your Individualized Education Plan that was made possible thanks to the 1975 federal enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, aka IDEA. Three cheers for the law and your rights to a free and appropriate education!

You've got the law on your side; how are you going to make sure your voice is heard in your IEP meetings? Here are some helpful hints on topics for you to discuss during your IEP:
  • ideas, goals, and plans for high school classes; extra-curricular activities that you want to participate in
  • ideas on your future career interests
  • plans for technical school or college
  • how you think your accommodations are/aren't working
  • any need for help in the friendship department
Before you advocate for yourself, you need to know your rights! You have the right to:
  • attend class with your non-disabled peers
  • receive accommodations (help, test-taking, etc.)
  • lead your IEP meetings
  • discuss your future before you exit high school
  • plan/run your IEP meetings
Are you ready to take on your next IEP meeting now? You know your rights. Now your responsibility is to step up into being your own "IEP Boss!" You've got this!
Interaction: Social Skills Videos

Do you struggle with being social with your peers? You are not alone! Many people of all ages have some challenges with interacting with those around them. And sometimes, it helps to watch others and learn from them. So, we searched the internet and found some great examples of how to handle different situations. Watch and learn...
(click each video to watch) 
"How to Break the Ice"
How to Break the Ice

"Joining a Conversation"
Drawing of a male looking on as a group of his peers are talking

"Greeting Others"
Two girls smiling and greeting each other

"How to Deal with Embarrassment"
How to Deal with Embarrassment

"How to Ask Your Crush on a Date"
How to Ask Your Crush Out

"Guide to Maintaining Friendships"
Guide to Maintaining Friendships

"5 Body Language Tricks"
Body Language tricks to make anyone instantly like you  
Helpful Apps for the School Year! 
Is there something that you are struggling with in school? There might be an app to help you! Phones and tablets can do so much these days. We did a little research to find apps that can be helpful to any student. You might try them...   
Need help making daily decisions? This is the app for you!

When you're trying to write a paper, but just can't get your thoughts organized, try using a mind map.

Orange book EasyBib:  
Need to cite a resource in a report? Let this app help you!

Dropbox icon Dropbox:  
Think of this as a flash drive. Keep all of your notes, assignments, etc, in your Dropbox folder and access them from any computer.

Notepad with compass drawn on it icon SoundNote:  
Acts as a notepad and audio recorder. Allows you to store an entire lecture through sound and written notes.

The perfect companion for school or college. Keep track of classes and add events to your week's schedule with ease.

TED Talks icon TED:
Find videos from amazing speakers on a wide variety of topics!
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- Leroy Moore is coming to Lawrence! Leroy is a powerful speaker, author, activist, and hip hop performer. The KU Disability Studies Seminar is hosting Leroy for a performance called, "From the Streets to Inside The Walls of Academia: Blues, Hip-Hop, Activism, Police Brutality and The Creation of Black Disability Studies." The performance will be on Thursday, October 20, in the Hall Center Auditorium from 3:30 - 5:00 PM.

- Did you know that you can get a free Kansas ID if you register to vote? Check it out!

- Would you like to recognize an outstanding youth who is doing great things in their daily life? Nominate them for a Kansas CEC Yes I Can! Award. These awards recognize school age children or youth with disabilities who excel in any of the following categories: academics, arts, athletics, school & community activities, self-advocacy, technology or transition. The nominee must be 2-21 years of age when nominated and have a disability. The deadline to nominate is September 9. Learn more

- Kansas Special Healthcare Needs wants to hear from youth with disabilities and their families! They are conducting regional meetings across the state to gather information about access to healthcare and how to better serve young people with healthcare needs. Meetings will be held through September. For locations, see the meeting flyer.

- Want to play some baseball in the Topeka area? Check out the Buddy Division Baseball from the Ken Berry League! Buddy Baseball is for school age boys and girls who have disabilities. They provide the enjoyment of youth baseball that is tailored to fit everyone'e abilities, and they pair each player with a partner to assist them as needed. Fall registration is open now! Learn more

- The Midwest Academy will be providing three
upcoming training workshops on skills of grassroots advocacy. These workshops will teach about developing strategies, building coalitions, recruiting volunteers, etc. Participants will learn how to better advocate in Kansas and make a difference in public policy. The trainings are 3 days long and are being held in Wichita, Topeka, and Garden City. Email to get more details and sign up.

- Are you looking for a job? Would a job fair help you out? Kansas Works is hosting an upcoming Statewide Job Fair on September 27. The fair will be held from 3:00-6:30 pm at different workforce center locations across the state. This is a great chance to meet face-to-face with top employers in your area, make connections, and learn about available job opportunities near you!

- Families Together will be hosting another Family Employment Awareness Training in September. These workshops provide information about how parents and families can assist their youth in becoming successfully employed. There is even a session for youth included. The next workshop is around the corner, so sign up soon! Learn more 
- CommunityWorks is looking to hire for positions related to working with youth with disabilities to achieve employment. This is part of a new grant with Kansas Rehabilitation Services. CommunityWorks serves Wyandotte and Johnson counties. To learn about these positions, contact Linda Brown 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 21 in Reno, Nevada. This year's theme for the Youth Conference is "Voting for a Better Tomorrow: Betting on the Youth." Participants will learn how to influence change and find allies along the way. Youth who are 14-30 are encouraged to attend! The main APRIL Conference will then be held October 22-24 and is open to people of all ages. Learn about the 2016 APRIL Conference

- Share your story of employment
as a person with a disability and be featured in a new book! The Damon Brooks company is creating a book that will profile people with disabilities in the workforce. They are looking for more people to showcase who are successfully employed. Learn more


This new web application helps youth to plan their careers, search and apply for jobs, and explore their long-term higher education and postsecondary training options. The site was even developed BY YOUTH! Visit the website
Faces of Change Going Strong
Participants building leadership skills through newest program
by Kim Strunk, Faces of Change Program Specialist  

Road sign that says Leadership
Did you ever think that being a leader would require so many orders? PAVING, LEADING, MODELING and LOOKING! Or so many directions, like FRONT, BACK, SIDE??? Oh my goodness!!  

In April, six young adults from across the state decided to take the challenge to enhance their leadership skills through our new Faces of Change program. During the past few months, they have learned the Job Description of a Leader, how to PAVE the Way, and how to improve communication skills. Did you know communication is more than just words that you speak? The Faces class has been learning this as well.

Our fourth session was held this past weekend, and we learned all about how to Lead from the Front! 

Please know that recruitment has begun for our 2017-2018 class and, if you are interested and/or know someone who might be interested, please contact Kim Strunk at or 785-215-6655. 

KYEA Completes 6th Empower Me! Workshop
Hutchinson area youth learn how to be successful in employment

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

T en youth from Hutchinson and surrounding areas are now ready to take on the employment world thanks in part to KYEA's recent Empower Me! Series (EMS) workshop! Hutchinson was the 6th stop for KYEA in this exciting program that is taking our staff out to youth across the state. And what a great day it was!

KYEA partnered with Prairie Independent Living Resource Center for this one day workshop, held June 9, 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, enjoyed some role playing that demonstrated soft skills in the workplace, and heard a presentation on communication. The Now Hiring workshop logo attendees also filled out their very own Individual Empowerment Plan focused on long and short term job goals. The day was complete with lots of laughter, fun moments, great learning opportunities, and a new understanding from participants on what it takes to get and keep a job!

A big thanks to all of the youth who attended! We have been excited to welcome these 10 youth into the KYEA family!

Thank you to everyone who volunteered or spoke at our workshop! Also, a huge thanks to Prairie Independent Living Resource Center for partnering with us, helping throughout the planning process, and to the staff members who helped out at some point in the day... we appreciate you!

camera Check out what happened when we handed one of our participants a camera and said, "take photos".... selfies galore!! View photos from the Hutch workshop

Our Empower Me! Series will continue for another fiscal year! We will be making our plan for the next few months and will hit the road soon. Want us to come to your area to conduct a day-long workshop? Let us know!
Time to Get Pumped for Another School Year!
Are you looking for a good pep talk? Need something to get you motivated to take on another school year? We've got just the thing for you! If you haven't watched a "Kid President" video, this will not be your last! This young man tells it like it is. Not only could we not stop smiling while watching this, but we were motivated to get up and do something! We think you will be too. Check it out!
Kid President- What are you teaching the world
Let's Compare!
The low down on the differences between high school and college

For all students, the transition from high school to college can be a tough one. For students with disabilities, this change can involve even more differences. We set out to find a good resource that compared high school accommodations with college accommodations. We found it at one college right here is Kansas- Fort Hays State University. Take a look...

Student walking down hallway past lockers wearing backpack College campus outside "High School vs. College for Students with Disabilities"

written by Fort Hays State University

Overall Guiding Principle

Your parents and teachers have much responsibility for your success. You have a right to a high school education and a diploma. The laws under which this is done is the IDEA.

You are responsible for your own success or failure. You have an equal opportunity to achieve a college degree. The laws under which this is done are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.

Who Initiates Accommodations

Teachers or other school staff identify you as needing accommodations.

YOU, the student, must identify yourself and present documents to justify specific accommodations.


Your parents are responsible for making sure the school is accommodating you appropriately.

Your parents are no longer responsible for making sure you are being accommodated. This is now your responsibility both to initiate and to make the appropriate office aware if you are not being accommodated.

Beyond the Classroom: Ideas for Creating an Exciting Year!
Three photos of ways to get involved in school- classroom_ hallway_ band

Another school year has begun! Are you excited? Are you ready? You may be thinking that this is just one more year of boring school. Guess what? You have the power to make this the best year yet! So, yes, you have to attend class and do homework, but school can be so much more than that. Whether you're in middle school, high school, or college, there are lots of interesting opportunities to make your year fun and exciting. Here are a few of our suggestions for things to try out this year:
  • Pick a fun elective course to try out. Think about music, art, weight lifting, journalism... you might discover a talent you never knew you had!
  • Join or start a group for students with disabilities. You could do this in college OR high school. You might be surprised how many new friends you could gain!
  • Become friends with someone new. Yes, it's hard to approach strangers, but sometimes it's good to step out of our comfort zone. Find someone who seems interesting or enjoys a similar subject... strike up a conversation with them!
  • Find opportunities for community service.
    Giving back to the community can be very rewarding, build confidence, and help you define your interests. And... it looks great on a resume!
  • Become a teacher's aide. Not only can you get credit for this, but it can also be lots of fun. What's better than a class with no homework where you get to help out your favorite teacher?
  • Visit the library. Yep, you heard me right. Have you ever just gone to the library and picked out a book that looked interesting to you, not one you were forced to read? Books can take us to a whole different world. Take some time to escape in an exciting book!
  • Attend a sports event. Whether you like sports or not, there is something really cool about attending an event where people are cheering for your school. You could meet new friends, have a hot dog or some nachos, or even just use this opportunity to gather with your current friends.
  • Help your school celebrate a Disability Awareness Week! Did you know that we have a Disability Awareness and History Law in our state? Contact us to learn about it; then come up with ways that your school can promote disability awareness.
  • If none of the above sounds like it fits, what about these: join a club, go on a date, volunteer at KYEA after school, take an online course, join the Leadership Institute at your school, use your PE class to get in shape, become a tutor... anything sound interesting?
Movie Review: 
"Finding Dory"

Finding Dory logo

It is the much awaited movie of the summer... Finding Dory! Maybe you've already seen it; maybe you're thinking of seeing it. One thing we do know is that this movie once again is full of characters with disabilities. What we didn't realize is that there are opposing views on whether this movie portrays disability in a positive light. So, we asked one of our alumni and one of our board members to give us the scoop!

Is "Finding Dory" a good tool for disability awareness? You decide...
Smiley face with thumbs up TWO THUMBS UP! 
Movie review by Kyle Christine, KSYLF Alumni 2011  
It seems that Pixar has done it again. After 13 years of waiting, the story of our favorite fish finally continues with Finding Dory. It is, of course, the long-awaited sequel to the 2003 animated smash hit Finding Nemo.

Taking place about a year after the events of Finding Nemo, Dory is a fish who has short term memory loss and helps Marlin watch over his son Nemo. But, her mind suddenly snaps when she realizes that she was separated from her parents as a young child. Realizing that she needs to see her parents again, Dory, along with Nemo and Marlin, embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she struggles to reunite with her parents. She finds herself at the Marine Life Institute where she must rely on help from other fish and sea creatures to achieve the goal of reuniting with her parents.

Now some people might say that this movie is worth advertising to those with disabilities. It is, because of the fact that there are quite a few characters within the movie that have disabilities. One character is, of course, Dory, who has short term memory loss throughout the whole movie. But, she is one character who starts to work around her disability by quickly remembering her memories and getting ever so close to her ultimate goals.

Another such character is an otter with wide eyes who has a disability. He feels the need to ride the bandwagon and join his friends on a comfortable rock location just outside the Institute. In the post credits scene, he (unknown to the otters on the rock) uses his disability as an advantage and creeps up and finally gets a chance on the rock.

So, for all people with disabilities and anyone who wishes to know more, I think that this crowning achievement from Pixar is worth watching to see how each individual character can work through their personal challenges to achieve their true purpose in their lives.
Frowning face with thumbs down TWO THUMBS DOWN...  
Movie review by Jason Gallagher, KYEA Board Member 
As a lover of Pixar's movies, naturally I was excited to see Pixar's latest animated feature, Finding Dory.  After all, Finding Nemo - the heartwarming tale of a clownfish named Nemo who must find a way to escape captivity while his father and their friend Dory search for him - is one of Pixar's finest masterpieces.  It is also a powerful parable, teaching us that, no matter one's disability or difference, each of us can have courage, perseverance, and success.  It taught us that differences can be celebrated for making us stronger and are not something of which to be ashamed.  With Finding Dory promising to follow the journey of Dory, a blue tang who has short term memory loss, I was certain we were in for another fun ride and a powerful lesson for all ages.  I was shocked and saddened to see that Finding Dory had elements that seriously detracted from the celebration of differences and disability.

Finding Dory's overarching message is a strong tale of overcoming disability, but because of the characters, Gerald the Sea Lion and Becky the Loon, the movie loses its integrity.  I was surprised to see that these two characters were bullied and ridiculed for their disabilities.  Gerald the Sea Lion makes limited screen appearances, but when he does, he is bullied and laughed at by the other sea lions. Gerald is purposefully drawn to be laughed with his bulging vacant eyes and a unibrow.  His behavior and appearance are those of the worst stereotypes of people with cognitive disabilities.  Gerald has no other purpose, but comedic relief.  Frankly, I can't understand what the artists, writers, and producers were thinking by including him.

Becky the Loon does have an important purpose to the story, so her ridicule is less than that of Gerald, but she is still mainly drawn to be laughed at.  A loon (a type of bird) drawn with big red eyes and disheveled feathers, she looks like she might have taken some type of illegal (for humans) substance.  Becky clearly has no sense or intellect and only responds to a special bird call.  She does end up helping some key main characters, but seemingly by accident, or sheer dumb luck.  Like Gerald, it appears she was drawn ridiculously different for comedic relief.

Finding Dory could have been a worthy successor to Finding Nemo, continuing to celebrate differences and inspire kids (and adults) to not give up, despite disability.  It could have possibly surpassed Nemo.  Yet, they included these characters, whose disabilities stand out visually the most, as purposeful laughing stocks.  How many kids will see this and find it appropriate to laugh at those who look "funny"?  It is hard for me to reconcile Dory's story with the inclusion of these unneeded characters.  It's painful and sad to watch these lesser characters be ridiculed and bullied.  Finding Dory could have been great, instead it finds itself in the position of undermining its central theme of celebrating difference, for the sake of cheap laughs. 
Community Power!
Circle with different types of disability logos
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Hutchinson

Seth Spainhour, KSYLF alumni 2016, introduces us to the programs and services offered at Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR) in Hutchinson!

Prairie Independent Living Resource Center logo
I am a 19 year old man with cerebral palsy. For now, that means that I must depend on my family to assist me. I would like to be more independent. I am educating myself on what Centers for Independent Living (CIL) can do to help me move toward my path to independence.  

I spoke with Roger Frischenmeyer, an Independent Living Specialist with Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR), about what services that PILR offers. PILR's main office is located in Hutchinson (17 S. Main Street). Satellite offices are located in Pratt and Dodge City. They provide services in Harvey, McPherson, Reno, Pratt, Kingman, Harper, Barber, Kiowa, Clark, Stafford, Edwards, Ness, Hodgeman, Comanche, and Ford counties. PILR has approximately 20 full time employees and 200 volunteers.

Roger stated that, "[A CIL is] an organization that works with people with disabilities to help them be as independent as possible." All CILs provide five core services (advocacy, peer support, independent living skills training, and transition services). PILR relies on grants for funding, and they do a great job within that tight budget.

Programs unique to PILR are: opportunities for people 55 and older with blindness or low vision; contracts with Vocational Rehabilitation for job placement assistance; and Money Follows the Person (MFP). According to Roger, "We do really cool things with youth [and] with independent living services." PILR coordinates the Disability Mentoring Day, which is a job-shadowing experience with hands-on exploration. Local youth should check out this exciting opportunity!

Any questions? Call 620-663-3989, email, or visit
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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