2016 Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum: Date, Location, & Details

Participants in the 2015 YLF receiving certificatesBack in the early 2000s, PYD’s executive director Regina Snowden was the driving force behind bringing the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) to Massachusetts for the first time. That first YLF was a huge success with over 30 participants, and it has been held annually since then by a number of different hosting organizations. Nearly 15 years later, we’re excited to continue Regina’s vision by hosting the 2016 Youth Leadership Forum in Massachusetts!

If you haven’t heard of it before, the Youth Leadership Forum is an overnight conference for youth and young adults with disabilities held annually in Massachusetts and other states across the country. The goal of the program is for YLF participants to build leadership skills and leave better prepared for future employment, higher education, and independent living. Started in California in 1992, YLF has since spread to over 30 states around the country, including Pennsylvania, Florida, South Dakota, Ohio, Maryland, Idaho, and Arkansas.

Here are the important pieces of information about this year’s YLF in Massachusetts:

Where: July 12-16, 2016
When: Bridgewater State University (Bridgewater, MA)
Who: Youth and young adults with a disability, ages 16-25
Applications: Due May 6th, apply here

YLF is a large event with over 50 youth participants each year, and it would not be possible without close collaboration among numerous organizations across the state. The event is also kept free of charge for participants thanks to funding from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Thank you to all our supporters and collaborators for making YLF possible!

You can find the full eligibility requirements, event details, and application form on the YLF webpage. If you have any questions, you can also reach out directly to Susan Nicastro at 617-556-4075 x13 or snicastro@pyd.org. Applications are due by May 6th, so apply today!

Finding Her Voice: Lizzie’s Journey with PYD

We’re pleased to welcome Elizabeth as a guest blogger. She’s an MHC and ATT participant, John Hancock MLK Summer Scholar, and recipient of the Chris Dunne Award. 

Elizabeth with her friends at Access to Theatre

My name is Elizabeth Gray.

My journey began in middle school where I faced many challenges. I had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, effecting my legs and had a language based learning disability. My mobility was impaired and I could not learn the same way as a typical student. I realized I didn’t have a voice in the accommodations that would work for me.  I didn’t know what was available to me. I do know I was not treated like other typical students. Perhaps due to my own disabilities and experiences I have chosen this path to make a difference in the lives of others. In high school, I became involved with Partners for Youth with Disabilities. By getting involved with them my life began to make sense and my transition began.

I went to Making Healthy Connections, which is a PYD program that takes place at the Oak Square YMCA in Brighton. We meet every couple of weeks and there is a speaker who discusses real topics that affect our lives. For example, nutrition, housing or substance abuse. At the end there is time to socialize with friends. I also became involved with another of their programs Access to Theater. This program helps those with disabilities to express themselves through acting and improve. The group meets at Mass Hospital School in Canton. It is amazing to see those with seemingly obstacles participate and enjoy acting, engaging and having fun.

From there, Deep Chinappa, the head of Outreach and Recruitment for PYD asked me to participate in their Peer Leader program. I was happy to accept and it continued to be clear to me that I wanted my career to be advocating and helping others.

The summer after high school, PYD offered me a summer internship. I had the opportunity to be the John Hancock Martin Luther King Summer Scholar 2014. This taught me what it was like to work in an office setting and be more independent. It taught me a lot about leadership and team building I began to realize I am the best advocate for myself.

PYD asked me to go to Mentoring Day at the State House and facilitate a group there. It was amazing to hear legislators talk about their work. Funding issues is always a topic foremost on their minds to cover programming beneficial to all communities. I was able to meet people representing many organizations as well as State Representatives.

Before I graduated from high school in 2014, I applied and interviewed to be a part of the Youth Leadership Forum that takes place for 3 days in mid-July at Bridgewater State University.  It is  sponsored by Easter Seals. Those who attend are Delegates and Peer Leaders. Peer leaders are participants that have been out of high school for at least one year. The delegates are high school students. This overnight is for youths and young adults between the ages of 16 to 26 years old, with the goal of educating participants about resources within the disability community. The focus is on their rights as an individual with a disability. Some of the discussions and speakers talk about adaptive technology, phone apps, and the Americans with Disability Act. They inform us about how changes in the law have helped make life easier over time. Last summer, I was a peer leader and helped facilitate group activities for the delegates.

I am now attending Massasoit Community College. I was terrified about going to College and all the changes it entailed. As the semester went on I got a little more comfortable each day with the scheduling. On campus I was lucky to find the Helping Hands Club. The goal of the club is to educate students about the disability community. This semester I became Vice President.

During the winter of my first semester, I hurt my knee and needed to begin using a scooter to get around the campus. It worked out well and I did not let my injury stop me from completing the semester. In fact, I got an award from the Latch Program at Massasoit that goes to a student who overcame challenges.

Elizabeth at Mentor Appreciation Night 2015 receiving the Chris Dunne Award.In the same year, Partners for Youth with Disabilities presented me with the Chris Dunn Award. This award was for demonstrating strong leadership and being a role model for others.  This year, I was able to meet the Dunne family which made the award even more special to me.

Last summer, I got to have the most amazing opportunity to work as Camp Counselor at Massachusetts Hospital School located in Canton, Mass. I worked in the transition program with campers that were between the ages of 18 to 22 years old. I learned so much about them and about myself and it helped me to solidify the career path I wanted to pursue.  I have chosen to major in Human Services.

This year I have become the YLN (Youth Leadership Network) Intern for Easter Seals in East Bridgewater. I am responsible for working with groups of young adults on activities about transition. Summarizing the events, taking pictures, and preparing information for their website. This past year I also became a Member of the Board of Directors at Independence Associates located in East Bridgewater. They work with individuals that have many different types of disabilities and provide them with the resources that can help them live more independently. It is a complete honor for me to be on a board with such amazing, focused and dedicated people.

I know my journey is just beginning and my true goal is to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to be the voice for those that need help finding their own. It is through the opportunities offered to me by Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Independence Associates, and Easter Seals that have helped reinforce the direction I want to take. I hope to be a role model or mentor to others as those I have had the honor of working with so far.

More about Lizzie: 

Her favorite activity to do at Making Healthy Connections (MHC)? Basketball and talking with friends

How has MHC helped you? Self-confidence and making friends

What is your favorite:

Thing to do? Shopping

Food? Spaghetti

Dessert? Ice cream Sundae

Movie? The Blindside

TV Show? America’s Got Talent

Sports team? The New England Patriots

Athlete? Alicia Sacramone

Youth and Family Disability Resources: February 2016

Welcome to February! Things are heating up out there, but we’ve got plenty of fun activities to keep you in the winter spirit.

Day of Science with Our Space Our Place
This is the first workshop in a series exploring the field of Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM). Middle- and high-school students who are blind are invited to participate in hands-on experiments, explore careers in STEM, interact with scientists who are blind, and together plan ways to continue learning and experimenting. A light breakfast and lunch will be provided. To register go to their website. To request an accommodation, please let us know by Thursday February 11, 2016. If you have any questions, please call (617) 459-4084

When: Saturday, March 12th from 10AM to 3PM
Where: the New England Aquarium, 1 Center Wharf, Boston, MA.

Shoot for Success! Summer Video Contest
Shoot an amazing video telling us why you want to attend Summer@CIP and you can win one of three $1,000 scholarships to attend in 2016! Contest Rules:

  1. You must produce your own original video using a digital video camera, phone, or laptop with camera.
  2. In 1-3 minutes tell us your goals and why you want to attend Summer@CIP. Be energetic! Be real! Be creative!
  3. Upload your video to your YouTube or Vimeo account.
  4. Deadline: Submit your entry between February 1 – February 29, 2016.

Get a taste of college life while residing on a highly-rated campus and experience independence in a supportive environment. College is not all about academics – it’s about fostering connections, learning the necessary skills to succeed and having fun while doing it. Summer@CIP is a program for students with Asperger’s, High Functioning Autism, ADHD, Nonverbal and other Learning Differences.

High School Summer Program accepts participants entering 10th, 11th and 12th grades in the Fall, as well as recent high school graduates. Beyond High School Summer Program is open to high school graduates up to age 26.

Program Highlights:

  • Spend 2 weeks on a college or university campus learning valuable skills and gaining experience
  • Engage in fun and exciting activities
  • Experience independent living
  • Build confidence and make friends
  • Make use of the CIP’s comprehensive curriculum, including: social skills, executive functioning and organization, reframing classes and more
  • Earn 1 College Credit for CSD-100 Introduction to the College Experience from Elms College
  • Create a plan for your future
  • Featuring 24/7 staffing
  • Throughout our 2-week session several fun and exciting activities are planned. Spend some time outdoors this summer hiking, swimming and exploring local highlights. Last year’s participants loved the ropes course, theme park trip and professional sports outing; this year will be no different! Students will also have some scheduled downtime to relax and socialize

Highland Street Winter Camp
Highland Street Foundation is pleased to announce its newest program, Winter Camp 2016, which will include free ice skating on Boston Common’s Frog Pond during February school vacation week (February 15-19, 2016).There will be special guests and activities throughout the week, thanks to our partners: Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Boston Red Sox.

There will be no cost for admission or skate rentals. In order to avoid long waiting times, tickets for available time slots will be allocated on site on a first-come, first-served basis each day.

For more information, please visit Highland Street’s website.

Easter Seals Youth Leadership Network 2016
The Youth Leadership Network is for young people with disabilities ages 14 – 26 to participate in group projects, activities, and discussions that are designed to help prepare youth to transition from high school to adulthood. YLN empowers youth with disabilities to self-advocate in order to take control of planning their adult lives and experience educational and professional success. The YLN is an opportunity for you to make friends in your local communities and within the larger network. Meetings feature fun, hands-on activities and interactive discussions about communication, teamwork, community service, disability rights, career interests and employment skills. Parents are also invited to stay for a parent group, covering topics related to transition services and program for youth with special needs. For more information about the meeting dates at each location event, visit the YLN Easter Seals page  or contact youth@eastersealsma.org or 617-226-2855

Boston Ballet’s Adaptive Dance Program
Boston Ballet Adaptive Dance provides creative movement instruction for individuals with disabilities ages 2 to adult, and is taught by Boston Ballet Faculty, with support by licensed physical therapists and professional musicians. Students can engage and explore in a safe and supported studio environment as they develop movement, musicality and personal/social growth. This program helps enhance creativity and self-expression, self-esteem and self-confidence, increased pride cooperating with and encouraging others, increased appreciation and knowledge of music and rhythm, distinguishing right and left, attending to and following directions, increased focus, and improved balance, posture, and alignment.

For more information email eci@bostonballet.org or visit the Boston Ballet Adaptive Dance page.

When: March 8th–May 10th, 2016
Where: Boston, Newton and the North Shore

Lunar New Year Celebration
Free admission for all! Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to ring in the Year of the Monkey! Explore Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese traditions while enjoying activities, demonstrations, and performances throughout the day. Be sure to find the vibrant floral arrangements around the building and stop in for an Asian-inspired lunch at the Garden Cafeteria. And visit the MFA’s newest display, featuring art from the prosperous and vibrant Song dynasty (960–1279)—regarded as a pinnacle of Chinese art and aesthetics. – Go on a Gallery Tour highlighting works of art in the Art of Asia galleries – Drop in on a hands-on Family Art-Making Activity to create your own masterpieces to take home. – Participate in interactive demonstrations of meditation, Gong-Fu (Chinese martial arts) and Saebae (Korean ceremony). – Enjoy festive musical and dance performances (including a Lion and Dragon Dance!) by local artists and much more! – And visit the MFA’s newest display, featuring art from the prosperous and vibrant Song dynasty (960–1279)—regarded as a pinnacle of Chinese art and aesthetics.

For more information, visit the event website.

When: Saturday, Feb 06, 2016 10:00a -5:00p
Where: Museum of Fine Arts Boston 465 Huntington Ave Boston, MA 02115

February Vacation Week Adventures at the MFA
“Tune in to Art” Whistle while you work and discover some of the many creative ways artists have been inspired by music in their artwork. Enjoy free drop-in activities all week, including storytelling, musical performances, family tours, and art activities. All ages and abilities welcome; children must be accompanied by an adult. No registration required. FREE admission for kids all week. (Kids 6 and under always get FREE admission to the MFA, and kids 7 to 17 are free during non-school hours. See Visiting with Kids for more information.)

When: Monday, Feb 15, 2016 10:00a-Friday, Feb 19, 2016 4:00p
Where: Museum of Fine Arts Boston 465 Huntington Ave Boston, MA 02115

February School Vacation FREE Activities
Looking for free things to do with the kids during February School Vacation? Head to the Upper Rotunda inside Quincy Market daily from 11 am – 2 pm for free programming. We have a fun lineup including puppet making, story time, juggling lessons, childrens meditation, arts and crafts, storytelling, and lots of magic! Monday, 2/15 11-12:30 and 12:30-2: Puppet Making with Rosalita the puppet Tuesday, 2/16 11-12:30: Story time with Big Joe the Storyteller 12:30-2: Juggling Lessons with Paris the Hip Hop Juggler Wednesday, 2/17 11-12:30: Meditation for Youngsters with Jason Escape 12:30-2: Malik the Magic Guy Thursday, 2/18 11-12:30 and 12:30-2: Arts & Crafts with Shannon Friday, 2/19 11-12:30: Story time with Big Joe the Storyteller 12:30-2: Jojo the Magician For more information visit their website.

When: Monday, Feb 15, 2016 11:00a-Friday, Feb 19, 2016 2:00p
Where: Faneuil Hall Marketplace 4 South Market Street Boston, MA 02109

Open House for Steam Summer Program
Fun activities for kids and adults. Play games, solve puzzles and build robots. Meet our staff and learn more about the summer program. Our fun hands on activities focus on the most engaging and exciting STEAM topics: – Science – Technology – Engineering – Art – Math The Studio of Engaging Math’s summer program offers kids the chance to experience just how fun science, math and engineering can be. From puzzles and games to programming and painting, there is something for every student!

When: Friday, Feb 26, 2016 6:00p-8:00p
Where: Studio of Engaging Math 320 Washington street, suite 301 Brighton , MA 02135

Family Day at Bakalar and Paine Galleries
Join us for our next Family Day at MassArt on Saturday, February 27, 2016! 11 AM – 4 PM Bakalar & Paine Galleries South Hall, 621 Huntington Avenue (near the corner of Huntington Avenue and Longwood Avenue) Twice a year, visitors of all ages are invited to Family Day for a free, fun-filled day. Interactive activities and art-making projects are designed and guided by MassArt students and gallery staff, and illuminate the featured exhibitions. With materials and inspiration provided, let your creativity flow! Family Day is free and open to all. Refreshments served.

All Access Improv
Fast. Furious. Funny. All Access Improv delivers a high-octane, completely off-the-cuff comedic force of nature. Appropriate for anyone with a sense of humor (all ages welcome), All Access is 65-minutes jam packed with 100% improvised scenes, songs, and games designed to make our professional comedians sweat hard and our audiences laugh harder. We combine the best improvisers from ImprovBoston’s popular Family Show, fast-paced Face Off and renowned National Touring Company into an all-star cast showcasing blazingly quick-witted comedy, mind-melting improvised music and, of course, copious audience interaction. All Access Improv is Boston’s all-access pass to daring, athletic, immersive comedy for everyone with a pulse. More info: click here.

When: Every Saturday at 6PM.
Where: ImprovBoston 40 Prospect St Cambridge, MA 02139
Cost: $16 General Admission, $10 ages 18 & under

I ♥ Science
Explore the marvelous science of our natural world in this annual daylong festival featuring dozens of activities. Use fossil teeth to study animal diets, design an insect maze, investigate the factors that differentiate New England beaches, examine frog adaptations, animal/plant interactions, and more! Awaken your love of science with activities led by Harvard scientists, graduate students, and enthusiastic explorers. Hear short talks on current research at Harvard. This program has something for everyone and is appropriate for children and adults of all ages. Special event. Regular museum admission rates apply.

When: Saturday, Feb 13, 2016 10:00a-4:00p
Where: Harvard Museum of Natural History 26 Oxford Street Cambridge, MA 02138