(Youth Empowered Self-Advocates)
A collaborative effort of the Center for Accessible Living (CAL) and the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities (CCDD)
On July 1, 2019, 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.
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.
What is Yes!
The YES! program focuses on self-awareness, self-determination and self-advocacy to enable a successful transition to adult life for individuals with disabilities. The program is founded on the belief that you know yourself the best and by knowing who you are, your likes, wants and needs, you can set yourself up for success after you leave school. In the Louisville area, YES! consists of a community group and the YES! school program.
The YES! Community Group seeks to empower individuals (ages 14 and up) with disabilities to become independent, active members of their community through acceptance, education, and advocacy. YES! strives to create a space in which all individuals with disabilities are given the freedom to explore themselves and their community, as well as opportunities for community engagement, volunteering, and leadership. Through interactive participation, the YES! group educates individuals on the skills needed to help take charge of their life, gain independence, advocate for themselves and successfully participate in school, employment, recreation and other community activities. The YES! Community Group meets monthly and covers a different theme each month.
The In-school YES! Program is a self-advocacy program for students with disabilities in high school designed to help prepare them for post-school life. Each school-based YES! group meets for one hour once per month for seven of the nine months of the school year. During the course of those seven sessions, the groups cover the following topics:
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Social Skills
- Personal Relationships
- Independent Living Skills
- Workplace Behaviors, Problems and Responsibilities
- Financial Literacy
- Other topics that may be raised by participants
The power and uniqueness of the YES! program in the schools lies in its use of peer mentors with disabilities to assist other individuals 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. They offer advice and support for participants. They augment and support the youth transition coordinator in presenting the YES! curriculum. Most important of all, they serve as on-going positive role models as the students prepare for life after school and pursue successful employment.
In the Louisville area, the in-school YES! program visits 12 Jefferson County Public Schools and three Bullitt County Schools monthly during the school year.
Join the YES! Self-Advocates!
As part of YES! in Kentucky, we will be developing a network of self-advocates to work on public policy issues that are important to people with disabilities. Members of the network will provide input on identifying and prioritizing issues, help organize people around the state to advocate and share their experiences and knowledge. Members will receive email blasts with updates and calls for action. If you are interested in being part of the network, please complete the survey found here:
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