8:00am, Yesterday, July 12th, was the first day the delegates would come in and get acclimated into the YLF setting to meet with each of the groups and get introduced to the program and week activities. We began by gathering in our small groups and doing ice breakers to get to know the delegates, where they came from, and if they wanted to, share why they came to YLF. Some expressed interest in making new friends, others about getting experience and so forth. After that, we went into the Dunn Conference Room for our welcome reception which consisted of Massachusetts Rehab Comissioner Osborne, PYD’s Executive Director Regina Snowden, and New Easter Seals President and CEO Paul Medeiros to introduce the Youth Leadership Forum to the delegates.
After gathering for this years group photo, Jeff Lafata of EPIC lead a workshop on ableism similar to when the peer leaders did his workshop yesterday. This activity was different, as each of us had to hold 7 note cards, on each card was a specific identity that you have, he asked us for our full legal name, gender, sexual preference, religion, disability, and what a goal in our life would be. Jeff one by one would tell people to give up a card that you could live with out until only one remained. For myself, the only card that was left was my name. I explained to my group the reason was because with all the identities that I discarded, they could be applied or identified by any single one person, but without my name to symbolize this is how I identify, those cards mean nothing. It was a very powerful exercise about identity and how we are all on different journeys, but here together to overcome many obstacles.
Next was the assistive technology workshop which featured many of the Easter Seals staff, including Desi Forte and a technology specialist named Flemings, about how to use apps on our smart devices in order to find better accommodation uses to make our lives easier. Flemings’ presentation was about the Amazon Echo as well as an assistive technology designed game controller called the SharpEdge so that people with mobility issues can play video games. This soon transitioned into a game of Jeopardy quizzing each group about what they learned with the information of assistive technology.
Transitioning from that was a workshop run by Access To Theatre’s Movement Director, Maureen (Moe) Finnerty. She lead a workshop of theater-based games that are traditionally used in the program to demonstrate to the delegates how we can communicate by expressing ourselves. It was classic ATT right off the bat and everyone was having a really good time playing the games and sharing their Rose (positive thing of the day) and Thorn (one improvement or negative for the day.)
Because there was a lot we had to do today, and because during lunch I had an unfortunate incident where I bumped my drinks into the sneeze guards *twice* and got embarrassed by what happened, I was feeling socially/emotionally drained and needed to refresh before we did our Peer Leader Check-in for the night. To make up for recharge time, I got permission to not go to tonight’s Open Mic Night, so unfortunately I cannot report what happened or who performed, but I can still explain in the past what that’s been all about.
YLF invited a poetry group called “Flatline Poetry” to host their first Open Mic Night two years ago when I was first a delegate. They would introduce the night and tell the delegates they have the opportunity to perform for each other as an audience. They would have a sign up sheet, and each delegate or peer leader would line up and talk to one of the guys with hooking any device up to sound equipment if they wanted to sing. It ranges from that, to comedy, to skits, to dancing, and every other performance that they want to share. the two years I saw these, they were overall very successful, though last year one of the delegates decided to take over the show for about half an hour and it was a bit tedious to say the least.
Finally, to end our day, each peer leader gathered for the second of three times to check in about our progress and of how our day went.