KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #54
November 2020
We are getting towards the end of the year... and what a year it has been! While we might look back and see challenges, we also hope you look back and see growth, love, and a new appreciation for life. This year might have made you stop and think... what is my purpose? What am I truly passionate about in this life? So that is why we have chosen passion and purpose as our focus of this month's newsletter. Let's end the year by taking stock of what is really important, ready to move forward with hope for the future!

Thank you all for supporting us in this last year! Happy Holidays, stay safe and healthy, and we'll see you in 2021!
Passion on a corkboard with each individual letter cut out of a magazine
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy logo


We have been adjusting to a new way of operating and serving youth in our state in the last few months. Virtual world... here we are! We are also facing quite a funding challenge due to loss of some major donors. YOU can help! Read on to learn everything that is going on at KYEA!
KSYLF logo with dove
KSYLF 2021 Delegates Receive Perks in Preparation for Next Summer

What a strange summer that it was without having a Kansas Youth Leadership Forum. As most of you know, we had to cancel this year’s KSYLF due to COVID-19 and wanting to keep our youth and volunteers safe and healthy. Even though we did not have an actual KSYLF, though, 20 youth in our state have already begun some leadership training and empowerment! Earlier this year, we selected a group of applicants to attend the KSYLF. When it became evident that we were not going to be able to have the KSYLF, we made contact with these youth and offered them the unique opportunity to attend the KSYLF next summer. They also have the opportunity to receive various perks that are unique to only this year’s delegates. Twenty delegates have taken us up on this offer! Here are the perks that they are receiving:

  1. The opportunity to attend private, bi-monthly Zoom calls with KYEA staff and KSYLF delegates.
  2. Being paired up with a personal KSYLF Coach that will support and encourage them until next July.
  3. Being a part of a private Facebook Group created just for our 2021 delegates!
  4. Assistance with writing a plan for one of their short-term goals, as well as information and resources that will help them reach this goal.

We have already had two Zoom calls with our groups of delegates and have been having quite a bit of interaction on the Facebook page. We also have had 20 past KSYLF volunteers agree to serve as coaches to our delegates. Exciting things are happening within this program, and we can’t wait to see what comes next!
Julia holding a microphone speaking with a Disability Heritage powerpoint behind her
KYEA's Presentations Go Virtual... Book Us Today!

While this last year has been quite an interesting one for our world and for KYEA, it has also challenged us to open our mind to new and creative ideas. Since COVID has really restricted our ability to conduct programs in person, we are having to think outside of the box and will be implementing some new ways of doing things temporarily. Most of all… we are going virtual!

What exactly is going virtual? Well, our presentations for one! KYEA has been conducting community presentations since the day that we opened. It is a very important part of our programs at KYEA. We want to continue to educate youth and others in the community, so we will be offering all of our presentations virtually! Remember, we can conduct presentations for any group of any age. Our available topics are disability awareness and etiquette, disability history, advocacy for youth, goal setting, self-esteem, leadership, and sexual health and relationships. We will present through Zoom and continue to make our presentations as interactive as possible! Contact us at or 785-215-6655 if you would like to book a presentation with us. To learn more about our presentations, visit our website.

We are also going to be putting more time, effort, and creativity into our social media! We know that this is one way to really connect with you all. So, we are currently brainstorming ways to be more interactive on our Facebook and consider adding other types of social media accounts. You won’t want to miss a thing, so LIKE us on Facebook at
KSYLF 20 Year Reunion logo with Nothing Can Stop Us- Celebrating 20 Years of Building Leaders
KSYLF 20-Year Online Reunion Postponed Until Early 2021

The Kansas Youth Leadership Forum is celebrating 20 years! To mark this milestone, we are going to be hosting an online reunion. Our original plan was to hold the Reunion this fall. We were very excited about this event, but, unfortunately, the number of alumni that signed up was very low. It takes a lot of work to put an event like this together, and we would be having speakers take time out of their day to be a part of it. So, we have to get a bigger group attending in order to move forward with the Reunion.

With that said, we DO still want to have the Reunion, and we know that many of our alumni are looking forward to it! Our plan is to reschedule the online Reunion to a different month, early in the new year. We will be considering some changes and will be finding more ways to get the word out to our alumni. Look for more details soon!

If you are an alumni or past volunteer and would like to help us recruit more alumni to attend, let us know! Please contact us at or 785-215-6655.
A view of the front of the KYEA office with empty walls. It says Help us fill these walls.
Still Seeking Youth and Alumni Artwork for KYEA Office!

We moved into our new office quite a few months ago, but our walls are still bare! We want to feel inspired and surrounded by our youth. So, we would like to line our office walls with artwork from you all! If you create art of any kind and are a youth with a disability (age 25 and below) or an alumni of any age from any of our programs, then we would love a piece of your art for our walls. This could include paintings, drawings, scrapbooking, chalk art, coloring pages, collage, graphic design, multi-media art, etc. If we can get it on our wall, we will take it! We won't be returning the pieces to you, though, so make sure that it is something that you are willing to give to KYEA.

We prefer to limit the art to one piece per youth/alumni in order to have a variety of artists. If you have created a piece of art that you think should go on our office wall, then contact us and let us know! We can discuss how to get the art from you. You can reach us at or 785-215-6655. We look forward to filling our walls with all of your creations! AND, we'll post pictures in future newsletters!
Top 10 that looks like a trophy
Top 10 KYEA Moments of 2020!

Whew... what a year it has been! While we had to think a bit longer about the positive moments in this last year, they definitely were there. Enjoy reading our Top 10 list for 2020 (in no particular order)!

1. Moving to our new office- it was quite a bit of work and we miss our old office that we had been in for so many years, but we also love our new office and our landlord (having a coffee shop right next door doesn't hurt either)! (All)

2. Being able to work in my pajamas during the shelter in place order. (Julia)

3. Making new goals with our youth each week- it gives me hope for the future. (Johnna)

4. Reuniting many of our past KSYLF volunteers during our recent coach trainings- since we didn't get to see each other at the KSYLF, it was awesome to see everyone! (Carrie)

5. Having two wheelchairs locked in one of our offices because we didn't have a key, and me trying to pick the lock... good times at KYEA! (Julia)

6. Seeing Madonna run around the new office because she the space to do so. (Johnna)

7. Getting to know all of our 2021 KSYLF Delegates on our monthly Zoom calls and doing interviews with them over the phone. (All)

8. All of the KYEA staff coming to see my new house for the first time and us working from there for a day! (Carrie)

9. Our first virtual presentation with Pre-ETS staff- we weren't sure if virtual was going to work, but somehow the impact is still there. (Carrie)

10. Really working together as a staff to try to figure out how to deliver our services remotely. I think this really challenged our brains in a good way and showed us that we have options and we can do it. (Julia)
Madonna- a fluffy white poodle wearing a pink and purple bow
Madonna's Corner!

Our therapeutic manager shares about one of her current passions!

Bow Wow (hello) to all! 

Not sure if you remember, but, in April, mommy (Julia) brought me home a lil’ sis. I am not sure what her name is since she does not have a dog tag, but mommy says things like “pretty kitty” and “Clarity, where are you?” a lot. Ever since my sister has been around, I am wag-cited (excited) to show her the ropes and remind her who is top dog in the house. When mommy gets on the machine where her legs go in circles (elliptical), I stand guard and pounce on my sister if she gets too close. At night, when mommy and I are in bed, sister likes to run around the house and chew on mommy’s toes under the blanket. I quickly bury my face in her belly and bark at her to stop. One time, mommy was in the kitchen with the cold box (refrigerator) open. I got closer to the cold box and whined so that mommy would see sister getting too close. Dog-mother (Julia) just kept barking (yelling) at me and telling me to get out of the kitchen. When mommy went back to the cold box, she found sister snooping on the bottom shelf! *grumble*… that is what mom gets for not listening to me. 

Mommy says I am passionate about being a big sister, but I am not sure what pass on net means. All I know is that I have a job at the office and now one at home, so I better be licking some more treats everyday for my hard work!

Love and Wags!


passion :

a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

purpose :

the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists

What is YOUR passion and purpose?
A girl wearing a stocking hat getting ready to walk across a bridge that goes way into the distance high off of the ground
Question of the Month
What is Your Passion?

"I'm passionate about making the world a better place any way I can."
- Trey Morgan, KSYLF Alumni '11

"I am passionate about Taekwondo, and now I am A Recomend black belt."
- Liz Root, KSYLF Alumna '05

"I am passionate about our society and helping protect it from COVID-19, whether if it is by wearing my mask at work and social distancing myself from the outside world as COVID continues."
- Joe Stroud II, KSYLF Alumni '07

"I’m passionate about my kids! I invest so much time and energy in them. My goal is for them to have a great childhood and raise them to be good citizens for when they become adults."
- Danielle Willcott, KSYLF Alumna '07

Why We Need Passions in Life and How to Discover Yours
by Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator

I LOOOOVE listening to music. I also love talking about music and singing. Music brings a smile to my face. I also LOVE educating the community about people with disabilities. It is very important to me, and it often weaves its way into various parts of my life… even my Facebook page. These are just some of my passions. Why is it important to have passions in life? Because the things that we are passionate about motivate us. I would venture to say that we work the hardest and do our best work when it involves something that we are passionate about. Our passions give us purpose!

So, what are your passions? Maybe you are not sure, or you would say that you don’t have any. I’m guessing that is not the case… it’s possible that you’ve just never labeled these things as your “passion.” So, how do you know if something is your passion? Think about this:

  1. Is it something that you could do all day and not get tired of it?
  2. Could you talk for hours about this topic and never run out of things to say?
  3. When you are doing this or talking about it, are you really happy? Do you get excited and motivated?
  4. Does having this thing in your life make you feel like you have something to contribute to the world?

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, then I’m guessing this is your passion! But, what if you just can’t think of anything that would make you say yes to those questions?
Dylan wearing a cowboy hat with his wife

Spotlight On: Finding Passion, Purpose, AND Employment

Dylan Trammell, Hutchinson

by Dallas Hathaway, Faces Alumni and KYEA Board President

From a young age, people often encourage us to search for our passion and purpose, especially when it comes to leadership. Dylan Trammell, a 2014 KSYLF alumni, exhibits each of these qualities in his life.

Dylan was born with a brain tumor, which was causing him to have a learning disability and seizures. Following treatment at age 6, his condition improved. Since age 16, Dylan has not had a seizure and has not taken medications for his condition.

During high school, Dylan discovered a passion for welding when he took technical classes. From there, he attended technical college in Beloit, Kansas, and obtained his Welding Certificate. Dylan continues to pursue his passions as a contract welder. He regularly works on various types of pipe, oilers, and structural welding.

Prior to attending the Youth Leadership Forum, Dylan described himself as a person who was shy and did not have many friends.

“I also had a hard time with public speaking,” Trammell said.

The KSYLF taught him how to be more open and connect with others. Dylan encourages youth to keep an open mind and not be afraid to get to know others. By doing so, you may discover things that you are passionate about that you didn’t realize.

The Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy recognized Dylan’s accomplishments in 2016, as he was awarded the Justin Cosco Award given out to alumni who have exercised their leadership skills and accomplished their goals. Since his time as delegate at the KSYLF, Dylan has continued to develop his passions and also discover new ones. We want to wish him congratulations as he will be welcoming a daughter in the next few months.
Straight From the Source:
KYEA Youth Share About Their Passions in Life
Seth Spainhour
Seth Spainhour
Throughout my life, I’ve been told what I can and cannot do due to my disability. I asked my doctor, at the time, if I could play football. He said no; I was very saddened by this. Sometime later, I asked him if I could wrestle. He said no. I was even more discouraged by this. I felt that this situation was unfair, and I did not know what to do. To make a long story short, the doctor eventually let me wrestle with help from the high school coach. This coach wanted me to succeed. One of the best memories of wrestling was being with my teammates and being accepted. I had many hardships during my wrestling career. But I did not give up, and it was worth it.
Madison Zimmerman
Madison Zimmerman
The things I have passion for is playing basketball at the gym, meeting new people, writing, college at JCCC, Xbox, building new relationships with new people, running, and singing. And I want to become a women’s basketball manager at JCCC, hopefully, if there is season even though with all of the COVID stuff going on. So, I’m filling out a resume right now, and then I’ll be turning it in to the coach when I’m finished. I have a lot of other stuff I’m passionate for as well.
Olivia with sound equipment in front of her
Olivia Ramirez
I was kindly asked recently why I am so passionate about the music industry and what my purpose behind it was.

The answer as to why I am so passionate about the music industry partly has to do with me working for an event management company called Crowd Systems Inc., but it also has to do with the fact that I grew up around Tejano music (Tex-Mex). I really am just in awe of it because the way the artist/band plays is truly amazing, but I also wondered who helps these people sound the way they do and what do they sound like in the studio.
Keep Reading for More Examples of Passion and Purpose...
How Do I Find My Purpose?
Three Videos to Get You Started
A black and gray race car with the number 99 driven by Alex Owen

Childhood Hobby Becomes Career
KSYLF Alumni Finds True Life Purpose in Passion of Racing
by Alex Owen, KSYLF Alumni '12

There is a huge difference between passion and purpose. They are questions that we always ask ourselves when going about life. But, to me, it’s one of those things that you can’t find one without the other. But, only you can find what your passion and your purpose is. You need to ask yourself, what do you love to do with your life? For me, that is racing. I feel like my purpose in life is to be racecar driver and be in the racing community. I didn’t find my purpose until after I found my passion. That is the way I view these two meanings. I first found what I love, and that’s racecars. Once I involved myself deeply into the sport, it became my passion. It’s what I am always thinking about every minute of the day; what I strive to be better in every way possible. Once I found my passion, I began to understand that is what my purpose is.
The nation's Capital building with blue sky in the background
Having Passion a MUST for the President of the United States
by Gabe Mullen, KSYLF Alumni '16 and Faces Alumni '18

For much of our country’s history, the United States has depended on and sought out charismatic and passionate leadership. That leadership role is primarily given to the President of the United States.

The president is in charge of the federal government and must make decisions to ensure that it carries out all duties as the law requires. But the president must also show interest in changing the way that government works and what government can do to change society. To decide what needs to be changed and how, the president must look to their own conscience and inside their own heart, to discover what they are passionate about.

Presidents always have one, or several, reasons for wanting to be the most powerful person in the country, ready to show voters that they are passionate about something. The status quo is never perfect, and promising to change something is how presidents win elections and inspire people to help them get elected.
A Chalkboard with the words Lessons Learned in 2020 on it
Lessons Learned From 2020
Challenging Year Teaches Us All Wisdom for the Future
by Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant

One of my favorite CNN journalists, Don Lemon, stated a few weeks ago that, when he was younger, his Mother said that she was going to “smack him into the next year” if he didn’t act right. I agree with Mr. Lemon who said he wished she would do it. But, if we suddenly were moved into the future, we would not gain the wisdom that trials often teach us. While there have been lots of challenges this year, there are also many lessons that I think we can learn from 2020. Here are a few:

1. Character matters.
2. Words matter.
3. Science saves lives.
4. Respect the stories and experiences of diverse people.
5. It is past time to invite everyone to the table.
6. Voting is critical.
7. Service to others often requires sacrifice.
8. Good still exists.
9. Our need for human connection is so important for us all.
A sign saying Difficult Roads Lead to Beautiful Destinations with a plant next to it

Challenge for the New Year... Give Up or Move Forward?
by Kirstianna Guerrero, KSYLF Alumna '18 and Faces Alumna '20

This year has been nothing short of unexpected, crazy, and overwhelming. I don’t even have to begin listing off things as you probably already have a list running through your head. Each one of us has seen unique individual challenges. Through the most horrible of times came the best moments of humanity. Bringing us back to focus on love, family, giving, community, and purpose.

Through everything we go through in life, we have the same choice to make: will we sit around and give up or will we take a stand and move forward?

Community Power!
Highlighting helpful resources throughout the state

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS)
by Gracie Johnson, Pre-ETS Consumer

Pre-ETS is a phenomenal program, one that prepares students for their next step in life. It is a program for students between the ages of 16 and 21 that have a disability, and it is accessible throughout the entire state of Kansas. This program assists and prepares students for post-secondary schooling or employment/career training. This program provides 5 main services and those are: Job Exploration, Self-Advocacy, Workplace Readiness Training/Independent Living Skills, Counseling on Post-Secondary Education, and Work-Based Learning Experience.
Various Pre ETS youth consumers at a workshop
Have You Heard?
Opportunities in Kansas
Attention Girls and Women!! Do you like to compete? Would you like to get involved in a Paralympic Sport? The Green Machine is a Kansas wheelchair sports club that features the Paralympic Sport of Boccia. Boccia is a throwing sport of strategy and precision, played indoors with adapted equipment. It was designed for persons with quadriplegia to compete at a high level. If you are not able to throw (or kick) the ball, the athlete uses a ramp to propel the ball onto court. Their Sports Club is sidelined right now due to COVID restrictions, but they are using the time to educate and recruit. To learn more about opportunities in the sport of Boccia, contact Cathy Drobny at

Local youth, Tavrick, has recently opened his own company, an online shop on Etsy called All Abilities Art. This online shop features artwork and products designed by people with Down Syndrome. Looking for unique Christmas gifts? Purchase them from this shop!

The Kansas Disability Caucus is looking for more board members... especially youth! Do you like to help plan events and support advocacy opportunities in our state? Then you might be a good fit to join the Caucus Board! The Caucus is a very large gathering of the disability community in Kansas that is held every other year. The Board is also looking to expand and provide other opportunities throughout the year. Would you like to make sure that the youth voice is heard in planning and that youth are involved? Then apply to join the Board! Contact Carrie at KYEA for more information (

ADHDKCTeen has an online group, and you can join! This group is open to Middle and High School Students and meets at 7:30 pm on the 1st Tuesday of each month. Topics focus on various aspects of managing life with ADHD.

The state of Kansas is making clear masks available through the Cares Act to people in Kansas who have a hearing loss. This includes people who are deaf-blind (have hearing and vision loss). Consideration is on a first-come, first serve basis, while supplies last.

Families Together is moving their Family Employment Awareness Trainings (FEAT) online! This free webinar series will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-7:30 pm starting January 12, 2021. These trainings provide information about the services, programs and supports available to support gaining and maintaining employment for youth/young adults who have disabilities.
A chalk board with the word feedback written on it and thought bubbles above feedback
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Look for our next issue in February!