The disability rights and justice movement is dependent on the next generation of youth leaders: young adults with disabilities who can take the movement to its next levels. Although there may be debate about where and what those next levels are, youth engagement is crucial. Thus, there are various facets of the disability community that are fostering the growth of young disabled leaders. Some of the major programs include the AAPD Internship Program and the Youth Leadership Forums for Students with Disabilities. I have been privileged enough to attend both the California Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) in 2009 and obviously, the AAPD Internship Program. Each program has a different premise yet they all display a strong commitment to sharing the knowledge of disability rights and empowering individuals to self advocate and embrace their place in the disabled community.
someone asks me about a life changing experience, why I am in DC, or
why I am passionate about disability, the answer is always YLF. In fact,
the YLF program lead me to this very blog post and this amazing AAPD
Internship Program. Every year, 60 youth with all types of disabilities,
invisible and visible, are brought to Sacramento, California to learn
about disability identity, culture, history and pride, self advocacy and
leadership. It is a transformational program that provides love and
support to community leaders. Ever since I was fortunate enough to
attend in 2009, my life turned upside down. I felt a part of something
bigger. I felt proud to be disabled. I wanted to create tangible change
in my community and my state. And most importantly, I wanted other youth
with disabilities to experience the same type of change.
I want to spread the word and ensure that as many youth have the
opportunities to feel proud of their disabilities, learn about their
history and understand their civil rights. This summer was especially
meaningful because as a member for the 2012 AAPD Internship Program, I
staffed YLF California as a Peer Counselor. Last week, I was able to
work with other leaders in encouraging, teaching and celebrating the 60
young attendees of the program. I was able to witness and support the
growth of young people with disabilities, and I could not be more
thankful. And at the end of the week, after they had learned an immense
amount of information, the youth asked themselves: now what?
Programs were discussed that they could join, such as YO Disabled and
Proud, Independent Living Center programs, and for one of the first
times, the AAPD Internship Program. I was honored to share my experience
and suggest others to find out more and apply. Many individuals were
interested and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share this
opportunity with many potential interns.
is with the conclusion of this year’s YLF that I remember the
significance of youth engagement and that the disability community must
remain connected and transparent so that all youth with disabilities can
have the similar opportunities that I was and still am so fortunate to