We are pleased to introduce our newest intern here at PYD: Tyler Terrasi, one of our long-time program participants who will be doing social media and marketing work with us over this summer. Welcome Tyler!
The fact that nearly a decade has passed since I first became aware of PYD and its services continues to blow my mind. In the fall of 2004, I considered myself to be a typical fourteen-year-old; nonetheless, I lacked many valuable skills that are crucial in order to achieve success in college and the workforce. On top of a greater social life, I—or more accurately, my mother—was in search of recreational opportunities and skills training that would increase my confidence and ultimately shape my future. After undertaking a great deal of thorough research, my mother stumbled upon the resources of Partners for Youth with Disabilities.
It was on a Wednesday morning in early October that I was first introduced to Deep Chinappa, the coordinator for PYD’s Making Healthy Connections and Access to Theatre programs. Though extremely apprehensive, I was talked in to attending my first Making Healthy Connections meeting later that month. Thus began a decade filled with a plethora of physical activities and social opportunities — experiences which have enabled me to grow as an individual and have aided in the pursuit of my personal goals.
PYD’s programs encourage young people throughout Massachusetts to discover their personal interests. Pursuing novel activities such as rock climbing, swimming, sailing, and skiing allowed me to venture beyond my comfort zone. Moreover, these recreational opportunities introduced me to new hobbies and forms of physical exercise that I could pursue going forward. The common stigma that individuals with disabilities enjoy a lesser quality of life–one that has reined supreme throughout society since the dawn of history—became disproven in my mind. I grew much more confident and prepared thanks to these experiences; I began to believe that I could pursue any challenge that came my way.
Networking opportunities have been an equally valuable component of my experience. PYD program participants have constant opportunities to socialize and share ideas during program sessions. Throughout my experience, I was able to meet a wide variety of young adults, many of whom faced similar challenges related to education and independence. In addition to engaging in casual conversation, my continued building of friendships provided me with a chance to become more knowledgeable about programs and services in the area. Not long after I joined the program, a PYD participant and parent made me aware of The Ride, the MBTA’s paratransit program for consumers with disabilities. This was the first in a series of steps that led to my ultimate mastering of the public transportation system, which itself was due in large part to a presentation conducted at an MHC meeting from the MBTA’s fixed route services accessibility representative. Other individuals – notably, a young woman and her family who struggled as they fought for services with their school district – made me aware of local agencies including the Boston Center for Independent Living and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, organizations that aided me throughout my high school career. As I prepared to enter college, staff and participants provided me with encouragement when it came to advocating with various support and disability resource offices for my specific needs. There supports were incredibly valuable as I began my post-high school career at MassBay Community College.
Most recently, I was selected to serve as a peer leader in the Making Healthy Connections program. A role model for younger participants, I now had the privilege of passing important information about my experience and community resources on to the MHC community. Participation in monthly peer leader skills trainings further aided in strengthening useful skills related to leadership and communication. Networking opportunities are an integral part of what make PYD’s programs unique – having the ability to learn from others is another reason why PYD has played a fundamental role in my development.
Mentoring has been an additional component of PYD’s services that has positively impacted me in recent years. Program staff encouraged me as I took risks and tried new, exciting challenges. furthermore, facilitators along with disability service providers and advocates made me aware of community resources that have helped me in my quest to complete college and search for employment. A noteworthy example of PYD’s mentoring in action occurred in the spring and early summer of 2013. After numerous conversations discussing my interest in communication and radio broadcasting, the co-facilitator of the Making Healthy Connections program provided me with the contact information for Watertown’s community access radio station, the perfect avenue where my skills could be honed and explored. Thanks in large part to his support, I am now the emcee of a weekly radio program titled “The No Stress Express” each Friday afternoon at 2:00PM on the station, which can be streamed at this website.
Experience gained from the weekly broadcast enabled me to gain sufficient confidence to launch a similar program of the same title and similar format on WDJM, Framingham State University’s on-campus radio station. The station can be streamed live here. Though the station does not operate during the summer months, the show will be returning in the fall at a time slot that will be determined in early September – it will last for the remainder of my career as a student at Framingham State.
In gratitude for the incredible amount of support I have received from PYD and its staff, I have recently begun to share my experiences as a PYD program participant with the local community at various outreach and Gateway Dialog events. I am thrilled to continue my endeavor to give back to such a deserving organization throughout the summer as I engage in an internship with PYD’s amazing team of administrators and fundraisers. PYD serves to mentor youth throughout the commonwealth – my experiences throughout the years are a testament to the statement that mentoring matters. PYD’s resources have been a major stepping stone in my life as well as the lives of countless others throughout the commonwealth. I am incredibly thrilled and honored to be beginning a fun-filled summer as a part of PYD’s team – it is my sincere hope that all young people with disabilities will have access to mentoring as they pursue their life goals.