Achieve Your Dreams: Lizzie Gray, our 2014 MLK Scholar

Lizzie posing with the 2014 ATT Peer LeadersThanks to the MLK Summer Scholars program through John Hancock, we have been so lucky to have current Making Healthy Connections and Access to Theatre participant Lizzie Gray interning in the PYD office this summer. She’s been doing an amazing job, and we’re excited to have her share her story.

My name is Elizabeth Gray, and I am 19 years old. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5 or 6 years old. I was also diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy at the age of 7, because my parent saw that there was something wrong with both of my legs and my feet. When I started to walk, I walked with my feet and knees inward because my hips were not fully developed yet.

What I have learned is that I am going to have both cerebral palsy and ADHD for the rest of my life, so I can’t let that delay me from achieving all of my hopes, dreams, goals, and milestones. In the fall I am going to be a freshman at Massasoit Community College in Brockton, MA where I am going to major in Liberal Arts. I will also be attending a program called LATCH, which is a program that assists students with their homework, helping them understand the information as well as helping them get organized. Also, I hope to become a member of a club that is on campus called the Helping Hands club. This clubs is focused on disability awareness, and it provides a place to discuss and generate new ideas towards the ultimate goal of EQUALITY for everyone.

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Celebrating 24 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

PYD staff at ADA Day!Martin Luther King Jr. once famously proclaimed: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” Though he was addressing a population of unjustly treated African Americans, it soon became evident that an ever-growing population of citizens with disabilities were subjected to this same degree of unfair punishment, underestimated and unprotected under the law. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, paving the way for monumental steps toward the full realization of Dr. King’s dream.

Dr. King’s message was perhaps best illustrated last Thursday afternoon in Boston’s historic City Hall Plaza. Thousands of exuberant spectators gathered to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the ADA. The ceremony kicked off with a parade through the plaza; later, attendees enjoyed a day of celebration, reflection, and education. In addition to music, free food, and perfect weather, opportunities for networking were abundant. Representatives from organizations throughout the state were on hand; in addition to providing service-related information and support, they did their part to spread the message that we all can succeed.

I had the opportunity to attend last Thursday’s event with a group of young people with disabilities. While chatting with fellow attendees and enjoying the festivities, I began to reflect upon the numerous steps the community has taken toward acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. This is particularly true here in Massachusetts – it’s no secret that Boston is a haven when it comes to supports that enable those with disabilities to be on an equal footing. This past Thursday’s events were more than just a casual stroll through City Hall Plaza and an afternoon in the park; rather, they provided a strong community of people with the opportunity to come together and celebrate each other’s unique strengths and traits. It was truly an honor to be interspersed among such a crowd of people with all abilities. Although there is still much work to be done to make our community truly free of stigma and unacceptance, the events this past Thursday were a true illustration of the sentiment that in life, there are no barriers to success.

Participants at ADA Day

Deaf participant signing at ADA Day

Special thanks to Mark Hunt from Disability Images for the photos in this post.

Access to Theatre youth to perform at the BCA on August 15th

ATT youth performing on stageBOSTON, MA – The Access to Theatre Program (ATT) of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, in partnership with the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) and VSA Massachusetts – The State Organization on Art and Disability, will again take up residence at the Boston Center for the Arts this summer. During a two-week residency, ATT will work with an inclusive group of youth with and without disabilities to create an original production that will include improvisation, stories, dance/ movement, visual art, and music to share with the public on Friday, August 15th at 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm, in the Cyclorama at the BCA, 539 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Created by, with and for young people ages 13 to 24 with and without disabilities, ATT provides fully accessible participatory theater arts experiences, enabling youth to develop creative expression, self-esteem, friendship and leadership skills. Participants work with professional artists to stage and create original theater productions and interactive audience experiences.

Since partnering with the BCA in 1997, ATT has worked with hundreds of young people in annual original productions viewed by thousands of audience members. Through these programs, participants explore movement, dance, visual arts, music, spoken word and the countless combinations that can be created in artistic experiences.

The ATT residency will run from Sunday, August 3rd to Friday August 15th and culminate in performances of original work on Friday, August 15th at 1pm and 6pm in the Cyclorama at the BCA. All events are free and open to the public as well as wheelchair accessible, ASL interpreted and Audio Described. Donations are accepted.

Calendar Listing

What: Access to Theatre Summer Institute Performances
In Partnership with the Boston Center for the Arts and VSA Massachusetts
When: Performances: Friday, August 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Where: Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116
Cost: Free and open to the public

About Partners for Youth with Disabilities

Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Inc. (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. We motivate youth to reach their personal, educational and career goals, and guide organizations in becoming more inclusive.

One of PYD’s most successful programs, Access to Theatre offers a Summer Institute, after school programming, workshops, leadership opportunities, mentoring, and assistance to other organizations interested in creating accessible arts programs. www.pyd.org

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Boston Center for the Arts

The Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) is a not-for-profit performing and visual arts complex that supports working artists to create, perform and exhibit new works; builds new audiences; and connects art to community. The BCA serves arts audiences through exhibitions, live performances and community events, and supports artists through affordable studio, rehearsal and performance space on the historic South End site. The BCA’s two-acre campus is home to hundreds of working artists, as well as several nonprofit arts and educational groups that provide a wide spectrum of services. www.bcaonline.org

Secrets to Success in the College Environment: A Personal Perspective

The fall of 2010 marked a very important turning point in my life. On a warm and muggy September morning that year, I set foot in a college classroom for the first time. I was immediately overwhelmed by nearly every aspect of the experience; nonetheless, determination and perseverance gave me the drive to continue pushing forward.

It’s hard to believe, but nearly four years have passed since my college career began; in less than one year it will all come to an end. The journey has been loaded with experiences I will never forget. Aside from making lifelong friends and enjoying fun times, challenges such as choosing courses, transferring from one school to another, living in a dorm, and completing assignments have been incredibly eye opening.

Attending college has enabled me to explore numerous subject areas and has helped considerably in narrowing down my career path. Most notably, the experience has taught me valuable lessons about advocacy and independence. These skills are essential for anyone with a disability who enters the college environment. A few key events that occurred along the way demonstrate the manner in which I learned to develop these skills.

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The Boys and Girls Club of Assabet Valley Committed to Inclusion

Through the Inclusive Fitness for Youth Initiative (funded by The Boston Foundation), PYD’s National Center is collaborating with Boys and Girls Club of Assabet Valley (www.bgcav.org) for a year-long partnership to increase inclusion of youth with disabilities in club activities.

The Mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Assabet Valley is to promote the growth of young people in our community by empowering them to become productive, caring, responsible citizens. They have been serving children in the Maynard, Stow, Concord, Acton and Sudbury, Massachusetts area for over 40 years.

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