Disability Awareness and History Month
Did you know that the legislation that recognizes October as Virginia Disability History and Awareness Month was enacted as a result of the advocacy and leadership of youth who attended Virginia’s Youth Leadership Forum? Each year the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), established by The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities (VBPD), continues its mission to develop leadership skills in Virginia’s young people with disabilities. From this annual event, additional opportunities have evolved for students to come together and support one another as they become leaders and advocates in their schools and communities. Many of the youth, who participated in YLF, and who have since graduated from high school, have continued to mentor and support those students who attend the YLF each year.
This module highlights the efforts and achievements of Virginia’s student leaders. We will explore the work of the Youth Leadership Forum, the I'm Determined Youth Summit, and the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. We will also go on a WebQuest to explore the history of disability awareness throughout the nation.
The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities established the Youth Leadership Forum in Virginia to promote leadership development in young people with disabilities. The program is based upon the highly successful Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) that was developed and held in California since 1992 by the California Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Due to the California program’s demonstrated success, the National Office of Disability Employment Policy (formerly the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities), endorsed replication of the program across the U.S.
Recognizing that the YLF is an important investment in the future of young Virginians with disabilities, the Board recommended the development of a YLF in Virginia in 1997. The VBPD has made a long-term commitment to continuing and evaluating the activities of the program.
The first YLF-VA was held from July 24-28, 2000, at Longwood College in Farmville. Twenty-one students with disabilities attended. All YLF’s from 2001-2010 have been held at Christopher Newport University in Newport News.
Now, with ten successful YLF’s to its credit, the Board maintains its commitment to provide high school students with disabilities with a unique leadership training experience that focuses on individual abilities as strengths, not disabilities.
Develop the leadership potential of highly motivated eleventh and twelfth grade students with disabilities through intensive leadership training activities.
Teach young people with disabilities to be strong, well rounded leaders by empowering them to:
The Youth Leadership Forum is a program model that has been endorsed by the National Office of Disability Employment Policy and includes three major components.
The YLF-VA curriculum adopted and expanded upon the California leadership development model described above. Large and small group topics were organized around a specific theme for each day, such as “Using Resources to Reach My Goals,” or “My place in History.” The program was structured to include a variety of formats including large group lectures and interactive workshops. Each day concluded with a less formal social activity. The basic structure for the week’s schedule of activities has not changed though some of the infrastructure within the schedule has been modified.
The Youth Summit is a two-day event held each year. Youth with disabilities of transition age (at least 14 years old) from across the Commonwealth meet to network and discuss issues of importance to young people with disabilities.
Delegates work in teams to identify issues and develop action plans that will encourage youth to better advocate for themselves and lead more self-determined lives.
The Youth Summit is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and the Partnership for People with Disabilities.
The first Youth Summit was held in 2008 with roughly 30 youth. Based on feedback from the original summit, a parent component was added in 2009 and has been tremendously successful as well. The summit has steadily increased each year with the Spring 2010 summit resulting in 100 applications for only 50 available slots. As a result, the Youth Summit decided to separate itself from the Virginia Transition Forum. This November will be the 4th annual Youth Summit and the first to be held independent of the Virginia Transition Forum. We hope to bring in up to 100 youth from across the state to spend 2 days in Staunton, VA.
The Youth Summit is planned and led by youth. We have a leadership team of approximately ten youth from across Virginia that meet with I’m Determined coordinators on a Saturday and follow up via e-mail, text messaging and the private youth run Facebook group created by the leaders. We hope to grow the leadership team to 25 youth who will then attend the Virginia Transition Forum in the Spring of 2011 as presenters during the forum as well as fulfilling the role of the luncheon keynote. Many of our Youth Leaders are also YLF (Youth Leadership Forum) alumni.
The goals below were identified at the first Youth Summit and remain relevant as we try to grow more self-determined youth in Virginia.
Please take some time to view our PowerPoints and Youth Voices video from past years’ Youth Summit applicants. You can see the PowerPoints and video programs by clicking on the Youth tab of this website.
Visit the following websites in the order in which they are listed to view the history of disability awareness in the Nation and in Virginia, to see examples of ways to integrate DAHM into the curriculum, to visit the Museum of disABILITY, and to read the blog of a young adult with a disability. Read about the history of the Youth Leadership Forum and Riding the Bus With My Sister, an excerpt from a memoir of the sister of an adult with an intellectual disability. You will view interviews with YLF alumni and current mentors. Finally, you will see pictures from the first 2010 Youth Summer Summit held in Washington D.C. where twenty-five students from across the state came together to increase their leadership and advocacy skills.
Questions for further discussion : After exploring the resources in this module, what about the experience had the biggest impression on you? How did the stories make you feel? If there was one thing that you could do to support teachers as they encourage the development of self-determination skills in their students, what would it be?