What does PYD mean to you? #IamPYD

On March 12th, PYD began its #IAMPYD campaign by bringing our traveling canvass to Access To Theatre, PYD’s theater arts program for teens and young adults. Participants added their art to the canvas, expressing why they are involved and what they like most about PYD. The canvas is currently filled with a rocket ship, flowers, and other colorful drawings, including proud declarations of personal identities and why PYD is important to them.

Thanks to Mary Grace, Jackie, Juan, and Olivia of the Boston University PRLab, three peer leaders shared their experiences and how PYD has impacted their lives. The following are excerpts and photos from the interviews and the young artists’ process.

“I like being a peer leader for Access To Theatre and Making Healthy Connections because I enjoy expressing my individuality through theater and having fun! I love it because it is a space where I don’t get judged.” – Lizzie Gray

“My favorite thing about being a peer leader is being with my PYD family and those that I love the most. I also like helping others” – Josh Jones

“Partners for Youth with Disabilities has helped me be a better human being. It helps me be more independent as a man and it teaches me about social skills, and how to be ready for the world. In my personal life, it helps me be prepared for anything, because it unlocks that [treasure box] of opportunities and it helps me express who I am as an individual. It helps me learn more about myself and learn new things about different people. Everyone has a story and you never what they are going through unless you sit with them and learn their story. PYD has helped me with that. I’ve been involved for nine years now. I love PYD and thank them for doing that. If PYD didn’t exist I wouldn’t have learned to be as sharp, strong, independent, and intelligent, and I woudn’t have learned all these acting and theater skills. It is so cool to express being silly, but also being artistic and consistent at the same time. Some words that describe me are fearless, risk taker, ambitious, strive for greatest, loving, loyal, dedicated to family, dedicated to my peers, dedicated to being myself, honest, caring. Anything you need I’m always there for you. That’s what describes me.” – DJ Robinson

Join us at the Party for PYD on May 18th to hear DJ perform an original rap!

We’d like to thank Blick art for the kind donation of the canvas.

Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior

An adult speaking to a teenage boy in a calming wayBehaviors are the result of the interactions of two things: the characteristics we possess as people and the characteristics of the situation we face. The theory behind the iceberg model of childhood behavior is that there are many things that influence the way that children act and react: skills, knowledge, experience, social role or values, self-image, traits, and motives. Some (the most conscious) of these characteristics can be seen outright – “above the water,” if you will. The more subconscious or unconscious characteristics are the ones working behind the scenes — “underwater.” It is a mixture of all of these characteristics that will shape a child’s behavior—meaning that the cause of the behavior won’t always be apparent.

The tip of the iceberg—the conscious characteristics that children have in their toolbox—are skills, knowledge, and experiences. Skills represent what children can do innately or things they have learned to do over time. Knowledge is what they know or have come to understand as they’ve grown. This knowledge is shaped by their experiences, which help build both the knowledge and skills available to them in their personal toolboxes.

Under the water, however, are the unseen forces that can shape their behaviors. This portion consists of four large components: their social role and values, self-image, traits, and motives. Continue reading “Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior”

PYD Expands Mentoring Opportunities to Community College Students with Disabilities on a National Scale

Cartoon mentor and mentee connected via wifiBOSTON, MA – Over the next three years, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be launching a new online, professional mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities across five states.

According to the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy, people with disabilities continue to have an unemployment rate over two times that of people without disabilities. While higher education often improves employment opportunities, college graduates continue to face barriers when seeking employment, which can lead to unemployment or underemployment. Thanks to a three-year grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities is planning to address this issue by expanding professional mentoring opportunities to community college students with disabilities in five states.

PYD will offer e-mentoring to 330 young adults with the goal of improved employment outcomes through partnerships with Business Leadership Networks in Massachusetts (Work Without Limits), Connecticut (Connecticut Business Leadership Network), Maine (Maine Business Leadership Network in partnership with the Maine Chamber of Commerce), Wyoming (Unita County Business Leadership Network), and Kansas (Greater Kansas City Leadership Network), as well as community colleges in these areas.

Community College students will access professional and peer mentors to increase their networks, receive advice, and gather support about achieving goals. They will also participate in topical webinars related to employment readiness, and engage in live networking and interview fairs hosted by the Business Leadership Networks.

According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “For 31 years, PYD has witnessed the transformative power of mentoring in the lives of youth and young adults with disabilities in their efforts to gain employment and achieve independence. We are thrilled to be expanding our program model beyond Massachusetts through e-Mentoring. We know that this effort between many collaborating partners will result in increased employment opportunities for the participating young adults.”


About Partners for Youth with Disabilities
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. To learn more, visit www.pyd.org.

About Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The foundation has contributed more than $15 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives. To learn more, visit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s website at www.MEAF.org.

Exploring Access To Theatre 2016, Week 2

On Friday, July 29th 2016, Access To Theatre premiered it’s 2016 show at the Boston Center For The Arts “Cyclorama” called “More Than Just A Wish.” The show consisted of many various acts including singing, dancing, rapping and skits accompanied by a live band (which I was a member of this year 🙂 ). While the first week of the program consisted of group activities, the second week was when everyone had to focus the act they would perform for the show.

One of the activities the participants did during the first week, was a cartooning class taught by 14-year-old Allie Lu. She showed the participants how to create their own art style and demonstrated how to draw cartoons. I was in this class, and it was a very cool experience to have. In the past I’ve been to drawing classes before, and I used to draw a lot of my own characters when I was younger, but I never had the patience or fine motor skills to actually create my own hand drawn comic books. It was good to get back drawing again, and Allie was definitely an exceptional teacher.

Allie even drew pictures of each of the participants, peer leaders, mentors, and artists at ATT. This is the picture she drew of me:

Hand-drawn cartoon of Evan waving, with a thought-bubble saying "Evan"

(The head shape is scarily accurate, too).


Two years ago, when I first participated in Access To Theatre, I was amazed at how open, supportive, and highly motivated many of the people in the program were/are. From the participants, to the peer leaders, artists, PCAs, and everyone else in between, ATT was a vibrant community where people of various backgrounds and experiences can come together to create art and express themselves without feeling the pressures of day to day life. Two years later, this is still the case. While many of the faces I met were different than from two years ago, this culture I just described was the exact same one that I knew from before.

By the end of the first week, I interviewed many of the ATT staff to find out what makes ATT an important part of their careers and what they enjoyed about this year’s experience. Here are some of their answers:

Question 1: What does the program mean to you/impressions so far?

Gabby [Stage Manager]: One giant family, a welcoming family that allows one to grow and find themselves.

Tammy [Artist]: I think everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves through art. Especially with theater because, it’s like, it’s not always easy to find an outlet [for that{. It’s wonderful to see how it transforms people and how they can find their true self.

St. Su [Artist and Keeper of the “Groove Lounge” where participants can relax]: It means that I get to work with [some of] the most talented and creative human beings that I know and I get to help them create exactly what they want to put out.

Dell [Musician]: From the first time I stepped foot at ATT, I’ve been amazed at the willingness of the participants to step beyond their self limitation. It’s not an easy process but it’s [about] their willingness to push past their boundaries.

Sean [Assistant Stage Manager]: [It’s] a chance to use everything I’ve learned in college and school, it gives me a chance to encourage the arts. [It] feels like [being] a monument man.

Moe [Artistic Director for Movement and Dance]: It helped me find my creative voice, and the best part is coming full circle and helping other people find theirs.

Phil [PCA]: I think it’s really special to see people come into the program, and even if they’re shy or uncertain, it seems like the participation in the group helps people with expressing their personally. That’s the best part of this program, seeing people participate and make the group their own. That’s one of the big reasons we do it so people can make it their own and express themselves.

Kevin [volunteer guitarist for the band]: The program seems like a great way to express yourself creatively as an artist and not be judged for your ideas and thoughts.

Question 2: During the first week alone, what has been your favorite activity or activities you’ve seen the participants do?

Gabby: I really liked pass the story and I really liked all the movement stuff through dance and moving your body.

Tammy: When we played the knock knock joke game because everybody participated and they made it their own, and connected with each other.

St. Su: Making art. Working with one of the participants to visually express their vast range of emotions.

Dell: Seeing people musically and artistically how they express themselves and try new things. Seeing their fearlessness.

Sean: Experience with being an assistant manager for people with disabilities

Moe: My favorite activity is when two participants told me that they didn’t dance but they did chose to be in a dance. When they danced, the smile is very evident.

Phil: The first week, the growing week, introduction week, and all the things we did to get to a point where we have a show, the weeks works where people come in fresh getting to know each other and coming together to prepare for the show.

Kevin: My favorite activity so far has been rehearsing [one of the participant’s] song while watching [a peer leader] break dance to it. It shows how two different art forms can be connected.

Exploring Access To Theatre 2016, Week 1

In 2014, after attending my first Youth Leadership Forum, Deep introduced me to PYD’s Access To Theatre (ATT) program, where young adults ages 13 to 24 with and without disabilities express themselves through the use of movement and the arts. When I first attended, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’ve been involved in theatre in one way or another through my middle school or high school, but never with a full group of people with disabilities.

What I soon discovered, however, was that it was among one of the most important and transformative experiences of my life so far. The people I met were really nice, very welcoming, and encouraging of others to express themselves in however way they want. In fact, I came up with the name of the show that year, “Mission Im-boxable”, which every single person voted for. It was amazing to me, and I felt like my voice was really heard within this community in particular. The following year, I did not return to ATT because of a difference in timing and wanting to have a different focus for my summer that year.

This summer, after 2 years away, I return once again to the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. I went into the open and echo-y space almost with a rush of deja vu, because I did it for so many days the last time I was there, and it felt really good to be back. We all gathered in a circle in the middle of the space and began our first day with early morning artistic exercises that consisted of creative movement such as stretching from side to side, shaking your arms, legs, hips, and what not, and walking around in different ways before freezing. Afterwards, Dell who is a volunteer mentor musician, lead a rhythm and beat exercise with each of the participants using instruments to work and ignite our “active listening” abilities.

At the end of each session, we gather once again around the circle and do what’s known as “rose and thorn” which is to share with the group a highlight of the day’s activities and/or a challenge that can be improved upon for next time, or shared so other people can be aware.

Right now, going into the second week of the program, we are quickly gaining traction forming this year’s show, as of right now we haven’t decided on a name as of yet, but there will be separate announcements to come of what that will be (gotta keep some stuff secret, right?).

Please join us on Friday, 7/29 at 1pm and 6pm for the performances! Here’s more information on the performances.

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