KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter

Issue #65

January 2024

We hope you all are staying warm and surviving this wild winter weather! It's a good time to just sit back and enjoy reading our newsletter :).

This month's issue is focused on transition. Transition can also be known as change. KYEA has experienced a lot of transition recently. We said "goodbye for now" to Julia as our Director, and welcomed new Director, Shannon Kennedy! Read all about this below. Also continue reading to hear from youth who are thriving through transition and how you can make the most of it too! We hope that you enjoy this issue!

A sign outdoors that says Turning Point and has symbols to indicate this

highlights of this issue...

Welcome Our New Director, Shannon!

Spotlight On: Yasmine Derritt

Top 10 KYEA Moments of 2023

Learning From Past Experiences

Processing Change and Navigating Transitions

Transition Specialists: Who Are They?

We appreciate any and all support to help us keep changing lives!
A collage of various pictures of Julia including a portrait and photo with KSYLF delegates and speaking in front of a disability heritage sign and with KYEA staff and also with Patrick and Dezarae

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Honoring the Legacy of Julia Connellis

In December, we bid farewell to our fearless leader, our Executive Director of 15 years, Julia Connellis. Julia dedicated 20+ years of her life to the KYEA mission, and the lives of so many youth have been changed because of her work. With gratitude, admiration, and heartfelt appreciation, we say goodbye for now, THANK YOU, and celebrate her remarkable journey.

Julia's tenure as our Executive Director has been extraordinary. Over these two decades, she has led our organization with unwavering dedication and infused it with her steadfast vision and passion.

Read the full tribute to Julia

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy logo


When you come to the KYEA office, you will see a few changes... one of the biggest is, we have a new Executive Director! But, one thing has not changed- our commitment to providing programs and services that empower youth with disabilities. Check out the latest below...

Welcome Our New Executive Director, Shannon Kennedy!

Get to know Shannon as she introduces herself and shares her belief in the KYEA mission

by Shannon Kennedy, KYEA Executive Director

Shannon Kennedy- a Caucasion female with blond curly hair wearing glasses and a floral shirt and green jacket and standing outdoors

I am so excited to get this chance to introduce myself to you all. I’m Shannon, the new Executive Director of the Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy. I joined this fantastic organization in November 2023 and had an excellent time with Julia before she left in December. I am excited to share a little about myself.

First and foremost, advocacy is my passion! I have a deep-seated need to always talk about how crucial it is because both of my sons have disabilities, and our journey has been all about me learning to advocate for them and then seeing them learn to self-advocate. That's how I first got wind of the incredible work KYEA does.

As I step into this role, I am so pumped for what lies ahead for all of us. KYEA has done incredible work across Kansas for so many, and I am eager to contribute to our mission of empowering and supporting young people with disabilities. Together, we will continue ensuring that your voices and needs are heard.

In the coming months, we have exciting plans to strengthen our programs and outreach efforts; I can't wait to share more about these initiatives with you all. Additionally, we hope to add more fantastic staff members to our KYEA family who share our passion and dedication.

I am truly stoked to be a part of this vibrant and dynamic community, and I look forward to getting to know every one of you better. Together, we will make a difference, advocate for change, and create a brighter future for youth with disabilities in Kansas.

So, keep an eye out for updates from KYEA, and don't hesitate to reach out if you have ideas or questions or want to chat. I’d love to hear from you.

Shannon Kennedy


A Few Questions...

What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?

Driven, Understanding, Ambitious

What are your disabilities?

Ever since I became a mom to two kids with disabilities and as I've grown older, I've noticed that my focus isn't quite what it used to be. I mean, distractions are everywhere, right? So, I've had to really level up my game and be super intentional with my day. That means kicking things off with a to-do list, taking regular breaks to check in on that list, and setting precise wrap-up times to make sure I've tackled everything or it gets rolled over to the next day.

But honestly, it's a constant struggle! Staying on task and not chasing after the next shiny thing? It's like a never-ending battle; I'm in it big time.

What has been your favorite thing about your job so far?

Hands down, the best part of my job is getting to learn about all the services we provide and the fantastic young people we work with. It's incredible how we're making a real difference all across the state.

Read all of Shannon's answers

Pre-ETS Empower Me! Workshops in Full Swing For a New Year

Another year; another round of Empower Me! Workshops with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) youth across the state… and these workshops have already taken KYEA staff to four different cities! Our Empower Me! Workshops are going strong, and they continue to build employment skills in young people with disabilities in Kansas. Most of our workshops, so far, have been in person, except for one virtual one. Here is a recap below:

Stop #33... Wichita! A great start to a new year of workshops! This workshop was held on October 10. It was attended by 18 youth from Wichita and nearby cities.

Stop #34… Topeka! Didn’t have to travel far for this one :). Our Topeka workshop took place on October 23 and was attended by 20 youth. The attendees were from Topeka and towns close by.

Participants of the Topeka workshop take a group photo with KYEA staff

Participants of the Topeka Empower Me Workshop gather for a group photo with KYEA staff.

Stop #35… Shawnee! This was a really cool group of young adults from around the Kansas City area! Our Shawnee workshop took place on November 28, and 18 youth attended.

Participants of the Shawnee workshop take a group photo with KYEA staff

Participants of the Shawnee Empower Me Workshop and KYEA staff take a photo together.

Stop #36… Salina! This workshop took place on December 12. Twenty-one youth attended, and they were a lively group! While in Salina, we were also able to see some alumni and one of our favorite volunteers :).

Participants of the Salina workshop take a group photo with KYEA staff

Participants of the Salina Empower Me Workshop take a group photo, along with KYEA staff.

Log On #37... Virtual! January brought our first virtual workshop of the year. On January 24, we had a virtual workshop specifically for 14-15 year olds. This was attended by 12 fantastic youth from across the state!

Screen shot of various participants of the January workshop smiling on their own Zoom screens

Screen shot of the January virtual Empower Me Workshop participants and KYEA staff on each of their Zoom screens.

We continue to meet so many awesome youth across our state through these workshops! AND, we continue to build stronger relationships with Pre-ETS staff as we work together to improve employment outcomes! We have MANY more workshops coming up in the next few months! We will be headed to Fort Scott in February and Wichita in March, along with another virtual workshop in March for youth in western Kansas. Then we will be headed to Olathe in April. If you are a youth Pre-ETS consumer, and you would like to attend a future Empower Me! Workshop, just reach out to your Pre-ETS Specialist and they will get you signed up!

Top 10 that looks like a trophy

Top 10 KYEA Moments of 2023!

Ah 2023... what a year! We're a little late with this list as we didn't get the newsletter out in December, but, we still wanted to highlight the standout moments for us, as staff, in the last year. There were lots of moments that stand out in our memories and make us smile really big. Check out our long-awaited Top 10 KYEA Moments of 2023, in no particular order...

KYEA staff make funny faces and gestures while wearing their Halloween costumes

1. Celebrating Halloween at work- a day of fun, memories, and the sounds of rubber chickens! (All)

2. KSYLF dance 2024- Awesome delegates, great DJ… one of our best dances! (Carrie/Johnna)

3. Kirstianna becoming KYEA staff and her creating the theme/logo for KSYLF ’23 (All)

4. Making impact videos on the last night of KSYLF- one of the most raw moments we have had working for KYEA (Carrie)

5. Full School Presentation at Indian Hills- one of our first with an entire school in a while… the greetings and hugs after the presentation made it even better! (Kirstianna/Carrie)

Zander shooting off a confetti canon as delegates look on

6. Confetti fireworks at the KSYLF Talent Show- oh, what a moment… (Julia)

7. Working with youth Kero and Kaydence- leadership lessons and trips to Milk and Honey (Johnna)

8. When Kirstianna lost her phone and we found that she was sitting on it. (Julia)

Some of the KYEA staff sitting around a table at a restaurant

9. Having all of my fellow staff attend my 40th birthday party! (Carrie)

10. My friend Leslie coming from Texas to experience the KSYLF for the first time (Rosie)

Close up photos of Johnna and Kirstianna next to each other

New Year Brings Change in Staff Positions

This issue is all about transition, so we thought it was fitting to share a change that we have recently had in staff positions. Not only do we have a new Executive Director (see related articles above), but some of our other staff have changed positions.

Johnna Godinez is now serving as our Administrative Assistant. Johnna has great people skills and will bring her fun personality and history with KYEA to this position. Look for her smiling face as you walk through our door!

Kirstianna Guerrero will now be serving as our Program Assistant. Kirstianna will be helping with many different tasks as she takes on a more direct role working with our programs. She brings her great communication skills, creativity, and excitement for our programs to this position.

We are excited to see what both of these ladies do in their new positions!

Delegates from the 2023 KSYLF smile and take a picture outside

Recruiting Applicants for 2024 KS Youth Leadership Forum!

We continue to search for applicants for our Kansas Youth Leadership Forum, and have extended our deadline! Our new application deadline is February 9, 2024. We are searching for high school juniors and seniors (and those in a transition program) with disabilities who have leadership interest or potential. This is an experience that you don’t want to miss! The 2024 KSYLF will be held July 15-20 at Washburn University in Topeka.

Are you not quite sure if you want to apply? Would you like to know more about what you will get from this program? Well, you will gain:

  • New leadership skills to take back to your community
  • Information about resources that will help you reach your goals
  • Experiences that will help you speak out and advocate more
  • Successful adult mentors who will support you
  • A large new set of friends from all over the state
  • Memories gained from our barbecue, talent show, dance, and more
  • Tools, opportunities, and experiences that will change your life forever!

So, why wouldn’t you apply? But, don’t wait! Again, delegate applications are now due by February 9, 2024.

Print a delegate application

View the fact sheet

View the poster PDF Text Only

A group of volunteers all wearing purple tshirts take a silly photo at the KSYLF

Volunteers Needed for the KSYLF!

KSYLF dove logo

Who and what creates the “magic” of the KSYLF? Our volunteers do!

We are now accepting applications for volunteers for our 2024 KSYLF! We are searching for committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program.

Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate youth with disabilities? Do you enjoy working with youth and people with disabilities? Then consider serving as a volunteer at this year's KSYLF. While it is a full week commitment, it will be the best week of your year… we promise!

Past volunteers, KSYLF alumni, and new volunteers are encouraged to apply! Volunteer applicants must fill out our application form, as well as two background checks, and send to the KYEA office by March 1, 2024.

Print a volunteer application

A KSYLF volunteer gets next to a delegate and assists her as she writes her goal on a big sheet of paper

transition :

to change, or make someone or something change, from one form or situation to another and the period or phase in which this change is happening

In our words...

Transition is when something changes in your life. This could take so many forms, and transition can happen in small ways or big ways. Some of the bigger ways might be: graduating, moving out on your own, getting in a new relationship, going to college, starting a job... the list goes on and on!

Transition can be hard, but it can also be WONDERFUL! Transition helps us grow into our best selves. Keep reading to learn why transition is important!

The word change on a black background at the top with the reflection below it
Yasmine Derritt smiling for a professional photo outside leaning against a concrete column

Spotlight On: Thriving and Growing Through Transition

Yasmine Derritt, Shawnee

by Dallas Hathaway, Faces Alumni '16 and KYEA Board President

For youth with disabilities, transitioning to adulthood can be a complicated process. When it comes to figuring out where you’re going to live, where you will work, and how you will tackle everyday challenges, making an effective plan is a critical element of the process.

For Yasmine Derritt, she had had some amazing successes with the transition process. Yasmine is a Kansas Youth Leadership Forum 2022 Alumna. She currently lives in Shawnee, Kansas. Yasmine’s disabilities include autism, depression, anxiety, and a learning disability. During her time at the KSYLF, she learned that all types of people with disabilities go through hardships, but they should not allow those hardships to define who they are.

Yasmine is a graduate of Mill Valley High School. She recently became employed with the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) in the summer of 2023. SACK is a statewide advocacy group made up of adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. They encourage and teach members to speak up for themselves and obtain the highest possible level of independence. 

For her job, Yasmine works as a part-time advocate. In this role, she goes to the state capitol building to ensure that people with disabilities are fairly represented when it comes to bills that are being discussed in the state legislature. 

“I enjoy working with people who want to help people with disabilities have a better life,” Yasmine said.

In addition to starting her job, Yasmine was also recently selected as the 2023 Kansas Miss Amazing Teen. 

“This was like a miracle for me,” Yasmine said. “I didn’t know I was going to win.” 

Being involved in the Miss Amazing program has allowed her to connect with new friends. Yasmine will be traveling to Chicago, Illinois in July 2024 to compete in the Miss Amazing national competition. Her goal is to win the national competition.

Another major aspect of the transition process is figuring out transportation. Although it was not easy, Yasmine successfully obtained her driver’s license. She accomplished this goal by completing a driver’s education course. From there, she went on to get her learner’s permit. Yasmine told me that she had to mature and work hard to achieve her goal, but, in the end, she was successful. She enjoys being able to drive around with her dad.

In her free time, Yasmine enjoys getting to know other people, hanging out with friends, and water gazing. Yasmine is also heavily involved in martial arts and has been since middle school. She is currently working on getting her black belt. 

“Everyone can get their black belt, even with a disability,” Yasmine said.

Yasmine told me that being in martial arts has taught her about patience and discipline.

Although the transition process can be challenging at times, it’s possible as long as you set goals and keep focused on what you hope to achieve. Yasmine is a true example of this!

Sydney Appl taking a selfie in her mirror holding her guitar and the mirror has butterfly stickers on it

Learning From Past Experiences

Living independently turns into success story for Shawnee youth

by Sydney Appl, KSYLF Alumna '19

Moving away from home… ah, what a transition to live through. It can be addressed in a few different ways: by learning when you get to where you’re going what you need and/or want, by leaning on others for those things, and by preparing beforehand for the move.

The first time I moved, I didn’t quite know how to prepare for the new singular lifestyle I was to live. One could think that I was ready since COVID helped me get used to being alone at home doing school work. This was simply not the case, and when I was by myself after moving, I broke down.

There were few comforts of home and what “comforts” I had were my parents telling me what I had to do to “be okay” out there. I also had few comforts from myself and from my friends who now either lived over an hour away or were too busy with their schooling at the same college. Being a person with some disabilities in a new city where I lacked supports, I was in shock. I hated the experience because I learned about everything I needed and didn’t have. Feeling utterly alone, my mental and physical health suffered while I was there and followed when I came home.

Later determined to come out better prepared than ever before, I took the time to recover and met the me I wanted to be. What helped in my success was distributing health related items (physical and mental) throughout all my bags, taking time off from school to focus on the move, and narrowing down my items to only that which is most important to me. I’m now comforted by items through all 5 senses in every room that remind me positively of my past, present, and future; my friends, family, and significant other; and who I am stylistically in my new apartment where I live with a roommate. I‘m now as independent as I can be at this time with guardianship, but that’s another topic. Thanks for reading.

- Sydney, the Artist formerly known as Ally

A man and woman smiling as they move boxes in and out of a vehicle

The Many Faces of Transition

Are you experiencing change? Then you're in transition!

by Johnna Godinez, KYEA Administrative Assistant

If there was ever a quote I would give for one of the major experiences in my life, it would be, “I know I am living because I am finishing one thing and I am moving on and transitioning into what I sincerely believe the Lord has next for me.” Now this is too long to put on my tombstone, so my life could be summed up by, “Here lies Johnna, she transitioned, and she is glad.”

To clarify, I asked Siri for the definition for transition, and it is the change from one process or experience to another state. For example, the butterfly goes from being a caterpillar to being in a chrysalis and the end result is a butterfly. The struggle is real, and transitions are often frustrating, painful, hard, etc., but, in the end, you hopefully will arrive at a better place in an improved state. Transition can mean so many different things. It is not just one thing… it really can be any change in your life. Check out these examples of transition (you may be surprised by some):

Break-ups – It could be between friends or a couple who are dating. Sometimes people grow and change, and relationships do not work anymore.

Adopting a pet – Suddenly you have a fuzzy wuzzy dependent whose every need is provided by its new parent. You need a dog walker, a new veterinarian, and hide your shoes so they won’t become toys.

New medical diagnosis – I am beginning the process of having my knee replaced in April, and I am starting to plan my transition to surgery, and the transition into the healing process post-surgery.

Moving to another location – It could be across town, the state, or the country. Not only are you packing up your stuff, but you are leaving all that you were familiar with including friends, your favorite places to go to, and your comfort zone.

Read the full article

Transition Can Be a Turning Point!

Kansans with disabilities share a glimpse into their exciting transitions

A collage of 8 different photos of people with disabilities of different ages and the transitions that they have experienced

1. Autumn Bertels got engaged to Davis Green!

2. Gabe Mullen started working as a Douglas County Elections Clerk!

3. Rebekah Jones moved out of her parent’s house, started college, and now works at a skating rink!

4. Joaquin Velez-Prieto is now attending Dodge City Community College majoring in General Studies!

5. Allison Wilkes moved out on her own and is preparing to move apartments again!

6. Seven-year-old, Faith Herrman, recently got a brand-new wheelchair and is so excited to have this new set of wheels after 8 months of waiting!

7. Zander Shaffer went to his very first baseball game and now loves watching baseball!

8. Ariana Hutchinson started college at Emporia State University last fall and is majoring in psychology! Not only that, but she is a member of the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and recently got engaged!

Side by side photo of Kirstianna before her coma and after her coma

Processing Change and Navigating Transitions

by Kirstianna Guerrero, KYEA Program Assistant and KSYLF/Faces Alumna

When something changes, there is a process of moving forward. The time you spend moving from where you are to where you will be is the transition. Not only is it a process, but it can also be a lot to process (to mentally understand and work through).

Change is hard. It doesn’t just last for a moment, but impacts how you continue. I remind myself often, though, that, just because it’s hard, does not mean it is impossible. Every change, whether it seems big or small, leads to a transition. Some changes are instantly seen as good, like graduating high school or ending a habit you want to break. Some changes are unpredictable- they happen in our life outside of our control. While many changes can come from “bad” circumstances, I’ve come to recognize that no change is inherently bad because there is always another way of looking at it. 

Read the full article

For another perspective and even more tips, check out this article...

10 Ways to Make it Through Your Life’s Transitions!

Make A Plan! Set Some Goals!

Kirstianna suggested making a plan in the midst of change. Making a plan and outlining some goals can help you get on track, organize your thoughts, and create a plan for what you want things to look like after transition.

And, of course, no plan for your life should be made without YOU!

So, check out this really cool tool! This LifeCourse Brainstorming Worksheet helps you write down what you WANT and DON'T WANT in life. Think about your likes and dislikes. What do you see in your future and what do you not see in your future? Try it out!

Click the graphic below, print it out, and starting creating the life that YOU want!

Lifecource worksheet with two boxes to write in

Transition Specialists: Who are they and what do they do?

Have you heard the term Transition Specialist? When I hear the word “transition,” I often think of my past Transition Specialist who actually introduced me to the KSYLF! But, what in the world do these people do? We are going to help explain what a Transition Specialist actually is AND clear up the difference between different types of Transition Specialists that you might have in your life.

So, first, did you know that there really are two different types of Transition Specialists? One works for a school district and may be called a Transition Specialist or Coordinator. Another type of Transition Specialist that you may have heard of more in recent years is a Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Specialist. Pre-ETS is separate from the school districts.

Read the full article

There are a ton of Transition Specialists in our state alone, and they all work very hard every day to support youth with disabilities in our state! Meet a few of them below…

School Transition Specialists

Close up of Liz Crickard

Liz Crickard

Free State High School, Lawrence

Favorite Part of Job

Being alongside young people as they explore and make connections in the community. This includes activities such as visiting local employers, field trips to college campuses, learning to ride the city bus, volunteering, exploring local recreational activities, and more. I love the learning and community building that happens when young people engage in exploration beyond the traditional classroom. It's wonderful to witness youth building the skills and connections they will carry into their adult lives to help them reach their goals.

Advice for Transition

Make sure you are part of conversations that involve planning your future. If you have an IEP, go to your IEP meetings so that you can share your input and ask questions. Make sure your input is part of the assessment that is used to create your transition plan. If members of your team and supportive adults are helping you set up services for after high school, get involved in the process. Meet the staff at agencies you may work with as an adult. Ask them questions. Share your feedback and input on these services. If the process for sharing that input is not accessible to you, tell your school team or service team and work with them on making sure your needs are accommodated so that your input is centered in transition planning.

Close up of Dawn Diaz

Dawn Diaz

Turner High School, Kansas City

Favorite Part of Job

Witnessing the growth in skills that students obtain from Freshman to Senior year. I love helping students develop a plan of what their next steps are after high school.

Advice for Transition

The biggest advice I have to students is to remember they are capable of great things! Throughout their high school career, they have demonstrated leadership, perseverance, employability skills, advocacy, etc. Have confidence in the skills they have learned and use them to elevate to the next step in life.

Close up of Ann Tweedy waving

Ann Tweedy

Seaman High School, Topeka

Favorite Part of Job

I have the best job in the world. High school is a time of so much change and development - and my favorite part is the privilege to be part of a team working with students as they learn, mature, and take control of their lives, navigating towards their chosen futures. The process is always rewarding and renewing.

Advice for Transition

Understand that you are not alone when you run into difficulties. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are many people who are happy to offer support and guidance, who have overcome every challenge a person can experience, and they are here for you. Every question you ask them will lead to great information and resources, which will help build an ever-improving network specific to your own personal needs.

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Specialists

Close up of Michael Dortch

Michael Dortch

Garden City

Favorite Part of Job

When a student takes on a challenge and finds some level of success. I love to see current or former students gaining independence by working in the community, driving a car, or taking on post-secondary education.

Advice for Transition

The person you are today is not going to be the person you are five years or more from now. Your pace is your own. So keep moving forward and learning.

Close up of Veronica Kelly

Veronica Kelly


Favorite Part of Job

I’m passionate about my first interactions with parents and students; I want them leaving my presence well informed of how Pre-ETS works and how we can assist in supporting the student toward employment discovery and independence. I love explaining the program, “watching the lightbulbs turn on” of various stakeholders, sharing success stories and encouraging parents and students. I also really enjoy connecting students to resources and watching them take advantage of suggested opportunities.

Advice for Transition

Take advantage of the opportunities and experiences that you are presented and don’t let fear stop you from trying something!

Close up of Jennifer DeShazer holding a little girl with lights behind her

Jennifer DeShazer


Favorite Part of Job

My favorite part is seeing students reach their goals and succeeding, regardless of what that goal is, each one is important!

Advice for Transition

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many great resources available and so many people that want to see you succeed!

Blue calendar on February

CIL Calendar

Want to get involved with your local Center for Independent Living? Here are exciting upcoming opportunities...

Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL)

RCIL Youth Transition Club

Meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm

Osage City Public Library (515 Main Street)

Youth with disabilities, ages 18-24, come together for fun, group activities, learning, and peer support!

Contact: Adam at RCIL at 785-528-3105

Three Rivers, Inc.

A3SGroup (Autism Support Group of Manhattan)

Meets monthly (every 2nd Tuesday) by Zoom or in person depending on the activity. This is a support group for young adults (16+) on the autism spectrum and/or their families. The group hosts a range of activities like bowling and Lego building, and have members from several counties surrounding Manhattan. Meetings are social and people can bring up things that they want to talk about. The group supports each other with ideas, accessing services/accommodations, interests, and life updates. For more information, email the A3Sgroup at

Independence, Inc.

Multiple virtual peer groups are available at Independence, Inc! All participants must have an intake with the CIL before joining any of these events. A consumer must live in Douglas, Jefferson, or Franklin counties to participate. For more information about any of these groups, contact Independence, Inc. at 785-841-0333. Consider attending one of the following virtual groups:

Peer Support: Meets on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Monday of each month from 3:00 – 4:00 pm. Participants take part in free-flowing conversation. Topics range from the most recent NFL game to funny stories and rants about work, from asking for advice about personal coping strategies to dealing with stressors of day-to-day life.

Music Therapy: Takes place on 2nd Mondays of each month from 3:00 - 4:00 pm. The host, a music therapist, incorporates everyone’s favorite music and the group plays games, creates their own songs, takes part in challenges, and more. Participants are not forced to do anything that they aren’t comfortable with, so singing is not required.

Art Group: Meets every Friday from 3:00 – 4:00 pm. Participants take part in a planned art activity, complete coloring pages, or do their own art. The art instruction is a fun way to challenge yourself in new ways. They even have a Consumer Art Gallery on their website where participants can take pictures of their artwork to submit for people to see and admire. Art supply packages can be delivered to participants upon request, free of charge.

*To have your CIL's event dates and youth news listed in future issues, contact Johnna at

Have You Heard?

Opportunities in Kansas

Families Together is having another Family Employment Awareness Trainings (FEAT) in April! This one will be held in Wichita on April 6 and 12. FEAT is a FREE two-day training for Kansas families, youth and young adults who have disabilities, and professionals who support them. Meet individuals who are employed, learn about employment options, hear about resources, and more. Learn more

Do you like to play boccia? If you are near the Topeka area, you should come and practice with the Green Machine wheelchair sports club! All ages are welcome and there are no fees for practices. Practices are 6:30-8:00 pm on Friday nights. Learn more

Did you know that the IDD waitlist in Kansas has reached an all time high? Would you like to help do something about this? Share your story! The KS Council on Developmental Disabilities is collecting stories of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been impacted by being on the waitlist. These stories will be used to advocate for change. Share your story

The University of Kansas Transition to Postsecondary Education (KU TPE) is a two-year undergraduate certificate program for KU students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is a great opportunity for young adults with disabilities to experience college! KU-TPE has a video to promote their program. Watch the video

Opportunities on a National Level

YASA, the Youth as Self Advocates project of Family Voices, is seeking youth with disabilities and/or chronic health care needs, between the ages of 13 and 26 to serve on the all-youth volunteer Advisory Board. They are looking for youth from diverse communities and locations who are already leaders in their hometown and are ready to expand their skills on a national level. Whether partnering with other like-minded youth organizations on special projects, participating on advisory boards, or speaking at conferences and events, YASA members share their unique perspectives about issues that are important to youth. Applications will be accepted until February 12, 2024. Learn more

This is SO cool! "How to Dance in Ohio" is a Broadway show that tells the story of youth with autism who are getting ready for their first formal dance. Based on a documentary with the same title, it follows them as they learn how to dance, find dates, and handle rejection. The best part? Many of the actors are actually people with autism! Makes us want to take a trip to New York! Watch this

Did your know that there is such a thing as Lego Braille Bricks? These have been available to purchase since August of 2023 and can be purchased on the Lego website. Check them out

Employment is possible for everyone! And there is a website out there that proves this. Did you know that people who are deaf can be in a variety of careers? #DeafAtWork is a collection of videos from employed individuals who are also deaf. Their careers range from fashion photographers, to sports information directors, to mayors! See the videos

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