CAL and the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities to Expand YES! Program
On July 1, the the Center for Accessible Living (CAL) was awarded funding from the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities (CCDD) to begin expanding its highly successful YES! (Youth Empowered Self-Advocates) Program to other areas of the state.
The YES! program focuses on self-awareness, self-determination and self-advocacy to enable a successful transition to adult life for individuals with disabilities. It has been very successful in the Louisville area where it consists of a community group that meets monthly and, during the school year, monthly visits to 12 high schools in the Jefferson County Public School system and three Bullitt County high schools. The uniqueness of the YES! school program lies in its use of peer mentors with disabilities to assist students with disabilities in developing the skills and insights they need to pursue employment. The peer mentors share their experiences, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams with program participants and offer advice and support.
Building on its success in Louisville and with the assistance of CCDD, CAL will develop YES! programs in five other communities in the next year. Those communities are Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Lexington, Murray, and Owensboro. Eventually, CAL and CCDD hope to introduce YES! across the state and use it as the foundation for a statewide self-advocacy initiative. A part-time peer coordinator will be employed in each new location to develop the program. The goal is to start at least one community group and two school programs in each of the five areas in the first year. The project will also develop a network of self-advocates linked by technology and a Youth Leadership Council. The Council will educate, organize and coordinate individuals with disabilities in advocating for positive changes in disability public policy and funding for services. CAL and CCDD will work closely together on all aspects of the effort.