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2017 Youth Forum

By Nancy Mader, Director of Transition Projects

On March 4, 2017, as part of the Visions of Community conference, the Federation for Children with Special Needs hosted its second annual Becoming a Leader Youth Forum. Twenty young adults participated in the forum, alongside members of the Federation’s Young Adult Advisory Council,exploring the theme of “Self-Advocacy” through the day’s four workshops and group activities.

2017-Youth-Forum-smilesAttendees began the morning with Easter Seals, whose “Technology Playground” gave the young adults an amazing opportunity to learn about technologies that individuals with disabilities can use to improve their quality of life and to interact with the world around them. We are grateful to Easter Seals for making this wonderful ”hands on” activity available to our participants!

The first workshop was a Self-Advocate Panel comprised of three young adults at various stages of postsecondary life. The panelists shared personal insights on transitioning from secondary education into postsecondary settings, including college and employment. Through telling their own stories, they shared the skills that have helped them become self-determined, self-advocating, independent adults. This workshop was inspiring for the young adults as well as for the panelists.

The second workshop, a Postsecondary Panel, featured professionals from three postsecondary transition partner organizations: state agencies, private employers, and colleges. Panelists highlighted key skills that, in their experience, had helped other self-advocates succeed within their track. The young adults were able to ask all of the panelists follow up questions and interact on a personal level.

Partners for Youth with Disabilities presented the third workshop of the day, an interactive workshop highlighting Access to Theater (ATT), an award-winning inclusive theater program that helps teens and young adults develop communication, artistic, and leadership skills. Their workshop at the Becoming a Leader Youth Forum encouraged the attendees to use their imaginations and interact with each other. It was a highlight of the day for many of the young adults.

2017-Youth-forum-brennan-srisirikulThe day was rounded out by the “I Am Able” workshop, presented by keynote speaker Brennan Srisirikul, which focused on empowering the young adults to participate in their communities. Brennan interacted on a very personal level and told his stories of success and failure. He fielded questions and spent time after the workshop talking with attendees about how they might inspire others to become self-advocates.

It was a busy and productive day for all of the young adults, Federation staff, and volunteers that attended. Friendships were formed and a sense of community was built through sharing personal stories and ideas. Feedback regarding the forum was extremely positive and we hope to see all of the young adults back next year!