For Immediate Release: May 18, 2017
Over 80 youth ATTEND 2nd annual building a great life summit, created by and for youth WITH DISBLILITIES.
On Saturday May 13th more than 80 youth, between the ages of 13-26 attended the 2nd Annual Building a Great Life Summit designed by CT KASA (Kids as Self Advocates). The summit created by and for youth, tackled some tough topics; How to attain and maintain gainful employment, becoming an entrepreneur and the super-hot issue of healthcare. “Healthcare is a paramount concern to everyone today” says Nanfi Lubogo, Co-Director, PATH Parent to Parent/Family Voices of CT (PATH/FVCT), “particularly for our youth-especially those with disabilities. Whether it be; physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities, the obstacles exist and we must provide them as many tools as possible to help them attain the healthcare they need today and in the future.”
Wherever millennials go social media is close behind, throughout the day-long event the audience shared comments via, twitter, snapchat and facebook live. “We wanted the summit to be bigger than whoever was in the room” says Emily Ball one of the young CT KASA board members, “As a person with a disability I think it is harder to find a relatable group to share information in real time.” continues Ball “Social media really helped us with that.”
In particular, the Social Media Healthcare Town Hall moderated by Derek Hall of The Discovery Center, prompted in-depth and honest discussion. Over the one- hour session, five questions were covered; How do you feel about your health right now? Who is responsible for your healthcare? How confident are you describing your disability or health situation? How comfortable are you discussing mental health issues? From this discussion what can you use to build a great life? The audience was able to participate through three different formats; through social media via Twitter, Facebook Live and SnapChat, verbal discussion through the moderator and via the use of visual support cues.
“I was pretty much blown away by the sharing that came from this town hall” Says Carmina Cirioli, Co-Director, PATH Parent to Parent/Family Voices of CT .”The exchange of ideas felt raw and unfiltered.” “We think we found a pretty good formula to get everyone engaged” continues Cirioli, “Through the use of focused questions and visuals, we had some teens who, because of the nature of their disability, had never been able to participate in a group discussion and on this day no-one was left out”. Being left-out or isolated was one of the more frequent responses from participants. “Special Education kids are off in one hallway” says CT KASA member Bobby Fitzgerald, “Nobody really knows who we are and what we are capable of”. On twitter a participant said, “Finding a school that treats you well will be one of the hardest things.” another chimed in, “School is the one of the greatest stressors’.
On this day inclusion was the goal where there was a common mission; Building a Great Life. Young entrepreneurs shared their path to success and everyone benefited from inspirational speakers such as:
Michael Scanlon, Youth Advocacy and Outreach Specialist at Advanced Behavioral Health, told the story of how he is building a great life despite having suffered a traumatic brain injury at 4 years old. Michael used his experience as an advocate of choice and inclusion to lead a panel discussion with 3 other young adults who showcased how they’ve overcome challenges to pursue post high school opportunities such as entrepreneurship and job training.
Xavier Farrell a gifted public speaker inspired participants with a rousing opening message that that set the tone for the theme of the day “Building a Great Life”- no matter who you are and what your circumstances . Like Michael, he believes that anyone has the ability to succeed if provide with the opportunity and the right supports and tools. He inspired participants not to be afraid to take a chance and sent a message to adults to believe in their children no matter what.
Perhaps the most rousing moment of the day was the opportunity to share the vision of what a great life looks like. This via Twitter: “What is a great life? Moving out of my family’s house and living with my friends soon!” With the help of an aid Sean Stenglein responded “Becoming a chef and owning my own restaurant” “I am going to be a congressman then a senator” a young man shouted with such resolve that some were ready to cast their vote. The only complaint of the day, “It needed to be longer’ said CT KASA member Adam Worrell, “We had so much more to say.”
“CT KASA models leadership and the power of self-advocacy” says Lubogo, “These young people learn not only to advocate for themselves but for their peers. We know that youth with disabilities have some unique challenges when transitioning into the adult world.” Says, Cirioli, “That is why it is so important to hear from their community directly without any adult filters applied”
The day was sponsored by; PATH Parent to Parent/Family Voices of CT, CT KASA, CT Council on Developmental Disabilities, CT University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Health Resources & Services Administration, Maternal & Child Health Bureau, CT Parent Advocacy Center, CT Dept. of Public Health, Title V Program, CT State Innovation Model Consumer Advisory Board.
“These amazing young people are excited to convene a summit all of their own where they can learn and discuss issues that affect them. Our role as adults is to help facilitate and provide them with the tools to success. This youth summit is one such tool and with this group, the sky is the limit!!” Co-Director Nanfi Lubogo
We are incredibly grateful to all of our generous sponsors who see the potential of these incredible young people and were excited to support their vision of “Building a Great Life in spite of their “disabilities”. Co-Director Carmina Cirioli
PATH Parent to Parent/Family Voices of Connecticut (PATH/FVCT) is a network of families providing informational and emotional support to others who have a child with developmental or health related needs. PATH/FVCT reaches out to help strengthen families coping with similar situations in Connecticut, and the organizations that serve them to reduce isolation, empower families as advocates for their children and reaffirm their values as parents and caregivers.
If you would like more information about PATH/FVCT or CT KASA, please contact Nanfi Lubogo at 203-234-9554 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credits: J Avery Wham. To view event picks, click on the following link: