Monday, March 27, 2017

Youth Learn Leadership Skills

Youth Learn Leadership Skills
By: Patty Hooper

Upon entering the room, all one could see was youth wrestling with cardboard and duct tape, while laughing and collaborating. It might look like the youth were just joking and playing around, but they were actually learning important leadership skills, like cooperation and problem solving. Their challenge was to work cooperatively to build a structure that at least one youth could fit into. These youth are part of a program Family Matters started in the Fall called Speak Up! Self-advocacy Training Program.
Speak Up! is a training program that staff at Family Matters adapted to teach youth and young adults with disabilities self-advocacy skills. We have worked on cooperation, communication, and social skills, all while having fun. We have discussed how to stand up for oneself without being aggressive and how to deal with having a disability in school and the workplace.
Family Matters applied for a grant from the Siemer Foundation, which was providing funding to organizations to teach youth and young adults leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The Family Matters grant proposal, stated that all students need chances to learn leadership skills, but often those with disabilities are left out of many such opportunities at school because of their disabilities. We stated that though students with disabilities often struggle with these skills, they can learn with the right opportunities and training. Our grant proposal was accepted and we were awarded $5,000 for the yearlong project.
Our group meets monthly where we take part in a variety of activities. Along with these meetings, we have many more things in store, including a mini-conference with speakers about inclusion and participation in our state’s legislative breakfast in Springfield. At Family Matters, we know that those with disabilities have a lot to offer and contribute to their communities. We hope that through this program, the youth participants will learn more about their strengths and how to use them to participate fully in school and the community.

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