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.”

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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.

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

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