The following was written during the day of Wednesday July 13th 2016, the actual third day during the Youth Leadership Forum.
It’s Day 3 at the YLF and we began the day’s activities with a Job Search and Networking Workshop presented by some of the PYD staff learning about resources to help with the job hunt and how to network.
The delegates as well as the peer leaders had the option of going to either one workshop or the other. The first workshop available was continued by the PYD staff and discussing Professional Communication and Soft Skills, or a workshop helmed by Federation For Children With Special Needs representative, Becky Rizoli involving Achieving Goals and Higher Education opportunities. I decided to go to the soft skills work shop and how to apply skills necessary to network.
Next was the big event of the day: The Career Mentor Luncheon and a brief ceremony for the Disability Hall of Fame. I would like to note that PYD’s own Nancy Bazanchuk and Regina Snowden received certificates for this high honor. Soon after, many of the career mentors introduced themselves and sat in many of the various tables around the room. Each of the peer leaders, and delegates with their appropriate work attire, received a card that had listed which table they needed to go to that was marked with a number. Each discussion lasted about 20 minutes or so and then the peer leaders and delegates had to switch to their next assigned table.
After a 15 minute break, all of the delegates met in their small groups to discuss advocacy in terms of introducing policy ideas to people involved in politics. Speaking for my purple group, during the activity we had a lot of really great ideas that the delegates contributed to the activity. My fellow Peer Leader Dustin tried very hard to make sure that we as a group were on task with what needed to be done, which was really good, but I had to communicate that everyone’s energy level was a bit low and that we needed to modify the activity just to be respectful of peoples needs. It was a challenge that Dustin, myself, and Rachel had to really overcome, but overall I thought we did as effective of a job as possible.
Next, we had an Adaptive Sports workshop hosted once again by Jeff from EPIC. The activity was that there were two separate groups on different ends of the room, with 4 pieces of tape on the floor. Each group was on an island and were given 10 “magic stones” or pieces of paper to help get across to the other side. We each had to cross the “chocolate river” and if a persons body part, like their feet, or elbows, or in some cases wheels, weren’t touching the stone, that person would be washed away and the whole group would have to start over. We as peer leaders were also given a rule as well, we were not allowed to talk to the delegates or other peer leaders to strategize. Only the delegates had to figure out how to get across. And so as far as I saw, both groups tried to strategize together and some people were more vocal than others, others were a bit more quiet, and some felt like they were put off to the side because they didn’t feel included. Both teams at some point in the game nearly made it across, but then something happened and both groups had to reset. Jeff then asked everyone to gather in a circle to talk about the activity, and he mentioned a lot of the points that I made just now, and made a very impactful point that this kind of problem does happen in other settings in life. It taught the delegates as well as the peer leaders a lesson in inclusion and how each of us can be vocal and step up, even when others can’t.
Soon after dinner, and an hour in between to get ready, was the YLF Dance! There was a DJ, a table with cookies and water, a dance floor for people to enjoy themselves, and if there were people who didn’t want to dance, they could sit back and do their own thing at some of the outside tables. The theme of this years dance that the peer leaders selected was all about “Peace” and many of the PYD staff dressed for the occasion by wearing hippie costumes as well as providing glow sticks and even rainbow heart stickers to support the LGBTQIA community. If people did not want to be at the dance, they also had the option to go into the Dunn Conference Room where Deep lead a music workshop called “The Beat Goes On” which let people play with the instruments provided for a music jam session.
Later in the night during my peer leader check in I shared about our group experience during the small group activity. I mentioned to Nancy and everyone that the delegates worked hard thinking of ideas for what they wanted to improve in their communities. In the past, we were shown the movie “The Great Fight for Disability Rights”, which was narrated by Easter Seals’ Colleen Flanagan, which gave context about disability advocacy history and how our voices as people with disabilities need to be heard. I learned that several groups had very successful conversations for the policy activity.