YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this eNews
seasons greetings - white letters with a snow flake over a blue background
New Youth Guided Research Brief
NYS Success logo_ Connecting systems of care with children and families
Through involvement in New York State Success, YP! and the Center for Human Services Research, SUNY Albany, created a research brief on Youth Guided Care. This brief offers insight about the meaning of youth guided care as well as concrete practice examples and strategies. 

Some of the key questions we try to answer here at YP! are: What exactly is youth guided, why is it important, and what strategies work? Young people offer a unique perspective based on their experiences that should be factored into plans, decision making, and systems. In creating this brief, YP! shed light on the perspectives and experiences of those in our network in order to provide information on what works and what needs improvement throughout our state on youth guided care. This insight also led to the creation of the "Do's and Don'ts of Youth Guided Care" handout that is included in the brief.

This brief is one of many  NYS Success  projects to amplify youth voice and improve youth/adult partnerships. 

To learn more about the NYS Success Systems of Care project, visit
Come Support RAMP at Applebee's Fundraiser

Applebee's will donate 10% of your check to:
Albany's Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP)
Tuesday, December 15th 2015
11:00 am to Close
291 Route 9w, Glenmont, NY 12077

Voucher must be presented in order to receive the donation!


Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program logo
A letter from our Mentoring Coordinator, Elijah Fagan-Solis

As many of you know, The Albany Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) is a career focused mentoring program for youth with disabilities (diagnosed, perceived or past) who are involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. RAMP uses group, peer and individualized mentoring to help youth learn about job options, how to set goals for themselves, and how to achieve those goals with steps anchored in their daily lives to successfully transition to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living.

Since its implementation in 2010, the RAMP has served over 150 youth and families with career-focused mentoring that works. During that time frame, 67% of enrolled individu als increased their school attendance, and 99% stayed in school. Youth in the program, who are often disconnected and disengaged, have been engaged in career exploration and preparation that is youth friendly, helping them take concrete steps toward their life aspirations. RAMP provides a place where not only youth can connect with other youth, but where they can truly be themselves and not be judged for it, all while participating in activities designed to foster individual growth and prepare them for the 21st century workforce with the support of caring and dedicated mentors. RAMP also helps youth stay in their communities, keeping families intact, and strengthening bonds between families and children. 

Due to being underfunded by our most recent grant, RAMP is in need of financial contributions. We are calling on children, youth, families, community members, our partners and local businesses to join us in our efforts to raise funds by participating in our upcoming fundraiser at Applebee's Restaurant in Glenmont on Tuesday, December 15th from 11:00 am to 12:00 midnight. All you need to do is eat at Applebee's on that day, provide your server with a voucher, and 10% of your total spent will be donated to our program!

You can also help by making a tax deductible donation to our program via online methods (will be set up soon) or by writing a check to 'Families Together in New York State' and putting 'RAMP Donation' in the reference line. Checks should be mailed to 737 Madison Ave, Albany, NY 12208. Your contribution will help local youth reinvent their future through career focused mentoring.

* $10.00 provides a gift card to a youth for meeting a challenging weekly goal related to their long term career-focused goal. 
* $50.00 will provide snacks for RAMP youth meetings for one week.
* $100.00 will cover travel expenses for two trips to attend career exploration activities in the community.
* $250.00 will cover family engagement activities and outings for an entire quarter. 
* A donation of $500.00 would cover background checks for mentors to ensure child safety for 8 mentors.
* $1,000 would cover food expenses for RAMP youth meetings for half of the year. 

Please join our community and help youth reinvent their futures with your tax-deductible donation to our program. Thank you in advance for your support and kindness.
The Power of Peers
photo of Caitlin Neumann
Originally posted on Disability.Gov
By Guest Blogger Caitlin Neumann, President of the Board of Directors,   YOUTH POWER!
Disability.Gov, US DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy December 10, 2015
Being a teenager is hard when you're trying to balance school, family, your social life, mental and physical health and plan for your future. So, what are you supposed to do when you're trying to maintain all of that on top of struggling with a mental illness? Who do I ask for help? Where can I get answers? Why does nobody understand?
After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, these are the questions I asked myself for years - a constant internal dialogue on repeat. At 15 years old, I felt alone, judged and hopeless.
When I was younger, I leaned on my friends for support, not thinking that confiding in them that I was struggling with depression would completely alter their perspective of me. In return, I lost every single one of my friends in high school because they didn't want to deal with my mood swings.
Being the generation of social media, they created an online Facebook page under a pseudonym, asking people around the school to join my hate group. I was a frequent flyer in the nurses' office, having panic attacks during the day that resulted in a temperature high enough to have me sent home. Looking back at these events, those examples of stigma dictated my perspective of myself, mental illness and the world around me. It's hard enough to beat the internal stigma I felt when I looked in the mirror, but then I was subjected to stigma within the community. If I wasn't able to be myself with the friends I grew up with, then I didn't think I could be myself with anyone ; that's the mindset I drilled into my head for several years ...

Geek Culture, Cosplay, Disabilities and the Evolution of a Peer Support Community Filled with Hope!
Photo of Joe Munisteri in cosplay
By Joseph Munisteri

Comic books, anime, video games, movies, television, card games, cosplay and so many more subgenres of art all share a few things in common. One of these similarities is bringing together people of all ages with similar interests. Another shared similarity is geek culture. Geek culture is a shared fan base and fascination with various arts such as comic books, video games, movies and pop culture. Growing up I was always a part of the geek culture community. Having received my first comic book at a young at through "hand-me-downs" from those older than me and often getting pop culture toys from thrift shops, I often found myself out of place amongst my peers as I didn't share the same interests in cars or sports as they did. This made finding an accepting community much harder for me. As a result I learned very early on that this culture has a community of its own, often misrepresented by stereotypes set by the media or previous generations due to an early lack of understanding of the genre of science fiction. This is why science fiction writers and fans created the science fiction convention scene so many years ago during the early years of science fiction's history in 1939 as an extension of the World's Fair. These conventions were not like the comic book and science fiction conventions of today, shared via social media and more easily accepted by the community. The conventions of yesteryear were organized as meetups for a community of people who were afraid to discuss their love of a culture that was too misunderstood by the general public to discuss amongst their peers due to a fear of being told they were too old to be reading literature about robots or aliens. At these early conventions often times fans would bring the stories they fell in love with to life by dressing up in costume as their favorite characters. This form of art was coined the term "cosplay" by Japanese reporter Nobuyuki Takahashi during a visit to the United States while attending the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in 1984. The term is a combination of the words "costume" and "roleplay" because it utilizes both the creative elements of costume design and acting in its art.
Group photo of individuals cosplaying
 Now let's flash forward to today, a time where more and more people are finding refuge in comics, science fiction and pop culture. People are drawn to these arts by their ability to allow a person to escape from reality for a short period of time. I bet you're asking yourself now what all these things have to do with the disabled community. Well to answer that question, the geek culture community is a community that is all accepting and ever growing. Remember that little tidbit about escaping for a while? I have been attending comic book and science fiction conventions for at least the past 10  years if not longer. I discovered cosplay and geek culture as an art outlet to cope with my disability as well as express my love for the stories and art that gave me inspiration and hope when I needed it. It gets even better it was one of the first communities to accept me for who I was and not judge me based on my disability. This community continues to accept others while encouraging positivity and hope. Trust me you haven't lived until you've seen a wheelchair disguised as a throne covered in swords made from tin foil or a visually impaired person dressing as a character from a comic book they were able to see because the publishers made a small run of large print comic books to celebrate the character. This is the beauty of the geek culture community and fan base. 

photo of Adaina Velez cosplaying Another beauty is the networking experiences that get made. These networking opportunities lead to meetups and peer support outside of a convention whether it be at a park or some other place in the community. These meetups inspire great ideas such as innovative new ways to make art, sharing knowledge, inspiring others to be advocates or do community service and creating charities such as Adaina Velez's "HEROES" a charity in which she sponsors terminally ill and disabled children, provides them and their family with support and takes them to conventions. Adaina also hosts many cosplay workshops for inner city youth at multiple community centers throughout New York City. Adaina created her charity because she understands what it's like to have a disability and the importance of having an outlet from her personal experiences within the disabled community. More about Adaina's charity can be found at and personally, I have a giant Hulk made from papier mache in which I bring to events and charities in an effort to bring the community together. The hulk was created by youth in 2009 and was donated to Family Residences and Essential Enterprises (F.R.E.E.) to help inspire the disabled. He was then sent to The Rehabilitation Institute (TRI) where he was used briefly before being put in storage.  After some time he was forgotten and was going to be destroyed. I salvaged him and chose to give him purpose once more so that he may continue to inspire hope to those in need. More about my Giant Hulk can be found at The hope doesn't stop there though,  Adaina and myself recently held a panel together at WinterCon 2015 we called "Cosplay and Disabilities: How Cosplay Helped me Overcome my Disability!" in which we shared our experiences of how the cosplay community and geek culture helped us find passion in our lives as well as connect with people and make friends along the way, allowing us to create a form of peer support that is often forgotten about in disability culture. It's amazing to see how many people share a similar story even when coming from another system, cultural background or even next door. A famous comic book character named Uncle Ben once said "With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility!" as his last words to a future Spider-Man, just as I'm ending this article saying that "This is only the beginning for an ever growing community that shares a rare symbol of hope for a brighter future!"  
Heroes by Adaina Velez graphic with two young people cosplaying
The Sesame Street See Amazing in All Children Initiative
Melanie Hecker smiles By Melanie Hecker

Autistic young people can face a lot of challenges, including discrimination and bullying. It is something many have been working hard to alleviate. Sesame Workshop, the people behind Sesame Street, are launching a new initiative to help bring some understanding and acceptance of young people with autism.

What is important to know about this campaign is that it does not depict autism as a bad thing. The goal of this campaign is acceptance of autism and autistic children the way they are.  By pointing out the differences children with autism have in a simple and child-friendly way, it encourages acceptance at a young age. They are trying to get rid of awkwardness or discomfort that may come with talking to a child with autism.

One way they are accomplishing this is by creating a new Muppet with autism. Julia, the new Muppet, has many of the same behaviors and challenges that autistic children face. She makes friends with the other characters but sometimes can be read the wrong way. Some characters read her the wrong way or think behaviors such as flapping are odd. Still, she is mostly treated like the other characters. For now, Julia will not be on the television show and will be limited to books and other materials, but that may change in the future.

There is a free, online children's book that explains autism and associated traits in a simple way. It can be found at

It was decided to put this children's book online so that it would be more accessible to autistic children. Print copies are coming soon.

This initiative will help bring information about and acceptance toward autism to young people at a time where they want to hear it most. Visit for more info. 
Votes Are In, Decision has Been Made, the Theme of #UYP16 is...
Amplify Our Voices
Thank you to everyone who voted. To learn more about University of YOUTH POWER!, visit
Call For Professors #UYP16
University of YOUTH POWER_ 2016 photo collage
June 11-14, 2016, 
YOUTH POWER! will host the third annual University of YOUTH POWER!

*Call for Professors and Activity Leaders*
We are seeking presentations on topics ranging from public speaking and building a professional network to understanding young people's rights and artivism. 
(please see the professor form for a full list of topics)

To apply, please fill out the professor form and submit it by February 12th, 2016.
For more information on UYP, visit
Register for the FTNYS 2016 Legislative Awareness Day and Luncheon
Families Together in NYS logo

Families Together in New Yo rk State 
2016 Legislative Awareness Day and Luncheon

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 12:30pm - 3:30pm 
(Registration and Scheduled Legislator Visits 10:00am - 12:00pm)
Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany, New York

Are you a family member of a child or youth facing:
  • Mental health challenges?
  • Addiction? 
  • Developmental challenges? 
  • Behavioral issues in schools? 
  • The adult or juvenile justice system? 
  • The child welfare system? 
No matter what door you enter, you are not alone.

Join hundreds of family members, youth, advocates and state leaders from across the state for the Families Together in New York State Legislative Awareness Day and Luncheon on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany, New York.  All are invited to meet with legislators, network with other families, and share your valuable voice, experience and ideas!

Every year, Families Together in New York State partners with our growing network of families to reflect on our lived experiences to learn about the needs in the community, what issues are important to us, and what policy changes would have a positive impact in our lives and the lives of future families coming up. We then create a set of policy priorities and advocate together as the family voice here in Albany.  
The state agencies and legislators need to listen to families because we know first-hand what does and does not work. We are credible partners and a powerful resource to decision makers. Together, we make the difference! 

For more information, contact Brad Hansen at 518.432.0333 x28 or
Last Call for YP! Annual Newsletter Submissions!
Members Only Alert

Want your work featured in YOUTH POWER!'s Newsletter? Here's your chance! 

YP! is seeking member submissions of art and activism, poetry, short stories, graphic arts, signs and posters, inspirational quotes, and essays to be included in the 2015 newsletter. This year's theme is peer services and support.

Some questions to consider:
What does peer-to-peer look like?
What does "peer services" mean?
How does peer support loo k across disabilities and across systems?

The deadline has been extended to December 15th.
Send your work to or by fax to  518-434-6478, Attn: Brianna Valesey, Topic: 2015 Newsletter

If you have any questions, please contact Brianna Valesey at or by phone at  518-432-0333 ext. 31
AAPD Summer Internship Program
AAPD logo

The  American Association of People with Disabilities(AAPD) Summer Internship Program  places college students, graduate students, law students, and recent graduates with all types of disabilities in paid 10-week summer internships in Congressional offices, federal agencies, non-profits, and for-profit organizations in the Washington, DC area. Each intern is matched with a mentor who will assist them their career goals. AAPD provides the interns with a stipend, transportation to and from Washington, DC, and fully-accessible housing.

  At the beginning of the summer, interns participate in a 1-week orientation session to learn about AAPD as well as the disability rights movement, meet the other interns, and participate in a variety of engaging workshops and events. As part of the AAPD network, interns also receive opportunities to attend events on Capitol Hill, conferences, community events, happy hours, and more.

Applications must be sent in by January 15th, 2016
CareerZone Releases Video Series
Plan ahead with CareerZone_ occupation information_ career assessments_ portfolio modules_ and implementation tips
New York State CareerZone was developed by the NYS Department of Labor(NYSDOL) to prepare middle and high school students and young adults in career planning and transitioning into the workforce. The free, easy-to-use website includes streamlined tools for creating resumes and cover letters, career exploration assessments, and frequently updated information on over 800 occupations. Whether used for just an hour or incorporated frequently throughout middle and high school lessons, the site is designed to encourage thoughtful career planning before the end of high school. Additionally the site is designed to support Young Adults transitioning out of high school, those ready to pursue a career, or even older teens who are looking to reconnect to education and training.

The CareerZone Informational Video Series is anticipated to help students and educators make the most of the site, including how to make a career portfolio and meet requirements of the Career Development and Occupational Studies  (CDOS) Commencement Credential. The video series is also anticipated to help teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and students understand the importance of career planning, motivate them to explore options after high school, and support these areas through their use of CareerZone.

CareerZone's tools are exciting, but what's most important is putting them in the hands of people who can use them. Students across the state are already using the site to develop resumes, explore jobs, and plan their future; these new resources make it easier than ever for students to plan for the future.

To learn more, visit
DRNY Seeking Members for PADD Advisory Council

Disability Rights New York is seeking members for its Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (PADD) Advisory Council.  The PADD Advisory Council meets three times a year in Albany, New York (with the option of participating via telephone). The PADD Advisory Council provides independent advice and recommendation to the DRNY Board of Directors and staff on issues relevant to protecting and advocating for the rights of individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in New York State. 
DRNY would like to have the voice of a youth advocate on the PADD Advisory Council.

Read below for more information and the application:
Disability Rights New York is the statewide Protection & Advocacy and Client Assistance Program system (P&A/CAP) and is seeking new members for the  Protection and Advocacy for individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) Advisory Council.  All members of the PADD Advisory Council will be appointed by the Board of Directors. 
The PADD Advisory Council is comprised of 7-9 people representing all parts of the state.  A majority of members must be individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are eligible for services, or have received or are receiving services or parents or family members, guardians, advocates, or authorized representatives of such individuals.  The PADD Advisory Council meets no less than three times annually. Members must be able to participate in all meetings. The Chair of the Advisory Council holds a seat on the Board of Directors. The Advisory Council is responsible for advising DRNY and its Board of Directors on its priorities and advocacy for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

For more information contact DRNY or visit our website at 
Education Law Tightens Testing Cap for Students with Disabilities

photo of President Barack Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act
President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, a rewrite of the nation's primary education law previously known as No Child Left Behind. Under the new law, no more than 1 percent of all students with be allowed to take alternate assessments, which are intended for those with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Learn more about how the new law will change things for students with disabilities at
The ASL App
image with asl alphabet and
Ever want to learn American Sign Language(ASL) but don't have the time, money, resource, or long term commitment to enroll in a class?

Available for iPhones is an app, created by Deaf peers, that is designed to break that barrier! This app works to bridge communities together in a way that is easy, accessible and fun.
The starter pack is free with additional themed bundles available for a cost. 

In addition to this app, the website has made available a "Deaf Culture FAQ" where you can learn more about the Deaf Community and Deaf people.

To learn more, visit
Get Involved with National Campaigns!
Photo of megaphone with different social media symbols coming out
Social media is a great tool to bring awareness in our advocacy efforts.
Together, we can amplify our voices!

Click on the campaigns below for more information on how you can team up to Speak Up and Speak Out! 

National Blood Donor Month
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Want to get more involved in YP!'s Advocacy efforts?
 You can submit advocacy tips, articles, and more on topics that affect YOU! Team up with monthly, weekly, and national day campaigns and email submissions to !

Did we miss a campaign or resource above? Let us know
The views and opinions expressed in third party messages and external links included in this eNews are those of the organization or individual mentioned. They do not necessarily reflect the official positions of YOUTH POWER!.
YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve.  Nothing About Us Without Us!

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