A Quarterly Publication

Produced BY & FOR NC Youth with Disabilities

All Wins Welcome

Part Two - Self-Care as a Self-Advocate

by Billy Pickens, ECAC Youth Outreach Coordinator

While reading this quarter's issue of Yep, you will likely notice many articles discussing celebrations, new beginnings, and stories of hope for a bright future. One of my greatest joys of being a leader of ECAC's Youth Advisory teams is not only helping youth through difficulty but watching them reach their goals one step at a time. Whether it is a graduation, a new job, or even something as simple as being in a good mood, I always find it important to make time to celebrate each happy moment with them.

In the last newsletter, I introduced a new series titled Self-Care as A Self-Advocate where I provide tips on how to have a life beyond advocacy. As a self-advocate, I believe it is easy to get lost in the daily struggles of having needs met and all that comes with living with a disability. This understandably can make it difficult to find any good life has to offer. For this reason, I feel one of the biggest steps you can take in self-care is to celebrate all wins, no matter how big or small.

At the beginning or end of each day, I encourage you to either think about or write down at least one thing from that day you want to celebrate. It may sound cliché and it is okay if some days you are in no mood to celebrate. However, this exercise can be a reminder that while everything may not be perfect, something has gotten better. It can also help you gain more confidence knowing that all you do to overcome daily obstacles does not go without reward.

As someone who likes everything in my life to be perfect, celebrating daily is hard at times but when done, it has been a key reason why I never give up advocating for myself. You do not have to wait on a big moment to make a big moment so let all wins be welcome!

Celebrations, New Beginnings and Looking Ahead...

by Aidan Lampel, ECAC Youth Advisory Team Member

I just graduated high school! I was so thrilled because it was finally over. High school was extremely difficult for me because I have two disabilities. I’m hard of hearing and wear hearing aids in both of my ears and I have autism. My biggest challenges in school were reading comprehension, writing, and communication. I had worked so hard studying, learning new vocabulary words, and doing homework. Now, I’m going to tell you about what my future is going to be like. 

I have three goals for this summer. One goal is to get my driver’s license, that way I will be able to drive my own car. Another goal is to find a part-time job with help from vocational rehab. Last but not least, the most important goal is to sign up for community college. I will take a few classes to see if I like it or not. I am excited about going to college so that I can be on campus and meet new friends. I’m also nervous about going to college because it’s going to be a lot harder than high school. It will be a new experience for me. I’m interested in getting a degree in either Graphic Design, Animation, or Film Editing. It may be very challenging for me to achieve my goals, but I will try my best and stay focused.

by Nicholas Batley, ECAC Youth Advisory Team Member

It’s summertime and the boys of summer are back in town! I’m talking about the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers and I’m lucky enough to work for them for the second season in a row. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a sports broadcaster. Sometimes, having autism can make dreams difficult to reach, but I want to let you know that if you work hard, keep taking steps forward to your dreams, anything is possible.

Right now, I work with the promotions team helping with the entertainment of the fans, but there are times when the Ballers allow me to be on the mic, where I can show them what I can really do. I have learned to advocate for myself while on the job. One thing is to make sure I have a list of what I have to do and when, and the Ballers have really helped with that. Another accommodation I have at work is that I can wear a UV shirt under my uniform jersey since I don’t like to wear sunscreen, so the shirt helps me not to get sunburned. There are things I have to work on – like not focusing on the game as much. I need to focus more on the fans than the game. But I know I can do it, and I will keep working hard, getting better, gaining experience, and keep taking those steps to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a broadcaster.

Lizzie Donaghue, ECAC Youth Advisory Team Member

So before I started doing my internship with Glory Beans Coffee Shop on Main Street in Albemarle, North Carolina, I met with my vocational rehabilitation counselor to talk about my desire to work a part-time job. She did some digging and found Glory Beans, a coffee shop restaurant, owned by a lady that goes to church with me. When my VR counselor reached out to Connie, she set up an interview at which we talked about how Connie and I knew each other and then started talking about my responsibilities if I were to work there. This internship requires me to keep a timesheet to document my hours and then have Connie sign it every other week and then my VR counselor signs off. She has to document my hours because my internship is paid through VR. So because of that, I have to scan my timesheets and send them to her so that she is able to dock my hours so I can get paid. My first day on the internship was May 10th and my hours are from 11:30 AM to 3 PM once a week on Wednesdays. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting new people.

As a Christian, it has been such a blessing to be a part of a community where I can give my time whether it’s volunteering at West Stanley High School or Endy Elementary, and now my internship at Glory Beans!

Originally, I had thought about taking a class or two at the community college this summer. But early on I found out that it was too late for me to apply for summer classes. I’m really glad about that now because I only have my internship to focus on since school has let out and I wasn’t able to get into college.

As an individual who loves being with people, it’s been hard to understand the importance of slowing down and cherishing the life that God gave me to love and serve him by loving and serving others. But thanks to a few friends on my youth advisory team, whom I have the pleasure of talking to sometimes over the phone outside of our YAT meetings, I realize that my life is a gift from God that needs to be taken care of not just by letting my community in my life, but also letting God in first, first and foremost, because he’s the one that put those relationships in my life.

This internship has allowed me to let new people into my life that I’ve never met…and as hard as it was to be ok with doors to certain relationships closing, I think that it takes realizing how certain relationships have positively or negatively impacted my life to realize what doors are worth being closed. When certain doors are. shut, that just gives space for me to allow for other people in my life that I’ve never met, who might need me.

I truly believe that nothing happens for no reason. Everyone has a place and a purpose. It’s not always up to us what we get to do because it’s not about us. It’s not about me, but rather what God wants to do through me for others. I believe that every individual has a unique purpose that only the individual can fulfill.

Thomas Green, ECAC Youth Advisory Team Member

My name is Thomas Green, I am 19 years old, and I have autism and ADHD. This fall, I will be transitioning to Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina to major in music performance. I can play six instruments, trumpet, drums, piano, acoustic, electric, and bass guitar, and I produce my own music. When I go off to Campbell, I will be able to learn all sorts of life skills and I will be able to experience many exciting things like performing in the “Sound of the Sandhills Marching Band,” and being independent. 

Some challenges will be the workload and getting stressed and since I have a learning disability, I am afraid of feeling inferior to my classmates. I am also nervous about feeling alone as I will be away from my family. I know that I have nothing to worry about because God will always be with me. Something that I want to say is, when you see someone with a disability, don’t exclusively focus on their disability because behind that disability is a beautiful human being with a life and a story who wants to do big things. We are more than just a disability.

Also, at the time that you will be reading this, I will have two new songs out on all streaming platforms which feature me playing my piano, electric, and bass guitar. My song “Reach Out Your Hand” will be released on June 16th and my song “Please Don’t Change” will be released on July 7th. If you are reading this after these dates, be sure to go look up those songs on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. I am under the name “Officially Thomas.”

Battling Accessibility as a Young Adult

Katie Haynes, ECAC Youth Advisory Team Member

Accessibility is often a battle that shouldn’t have to be. It is a daily battle for us and for our families. That could be anything including our dating life, places being accessible for us to go to, and so forth. In my opinion, we should all be given access to life and that is often very hard to find in society.

As a kid, I was bullied and had a really really tough time in the school system. Thank goodness I had amazing parents who pulled me out in 8th grade and homeschooled me until I graduated high school. If it wasn’t for them I don’t see how I could have graduated the way things were in my situation and then I ended up getting sick in late in high school so it worked out in the end. I not only graduated but proved the school systems wrong by getting into three universities and graduating.

Now as I get older I have experienced issues with dating, the workforce and just really realizing how many places/things are so inaccessible. 

If you only knew some of the things I have gone through work-wise trying to find a reasonable option that works for me. At this time I work 1-2 days a week for five hours but we drive 45mins to an hour one way just for me to get there due to this being the only place to hire me in the area that is closest to us. Keep in mind, I can’t drive due to accessible vehicles just being so expensive. Oh, did I mention I don’t live in the city so I don’t have bus transport either. Even though I don’t want that life and should not be required to have to have that option.

I have and still am left out of many things and find things still difficult such as dating and often I am still left out of many friend functions believe it or not.

That being said, I feel as if I am able to create opportunities through Smiling While Sending Hope, so that everyone feels like they can participate and not feel excluded. This is a feeling I want to change, we are all one big happy family. I am on a mission to make sure we do not forget about anyone.

Alexis Radcliff, 2023 Graziadei Achievement

Scholarship Award Winner

I really want to show kids that even if you have disabilities that doesn't define you, it only makes you stronger. You can do anything that you put your mind and heart into.

I graduated from North Surry High School in May and will be attending college in the fall. I would like to pursue education as my major. I have not decided on what I want to teach but maybe math or special education. Eventually, I would like to get my doctorate and become a superintendent.

Read more about Alexis

And The Winner's Are...

Congratulations to the following five North Carolina's Got Talent Winners!

John B.

10 years old, Cabarrus County

Kelsey M.

12 years old, Franklin County

Kelsey Moore playing the piano and singing

Triston W.

11 years old, Sampson County

Katie G.

20 years old, Mecklenburg County

Jonah M.

14 years old, Iredell County


CLICK HERE to visit ncdhhs.gov/OpenToCare to find people and resources that can hlp!

Reach Out. Help is Here.

Many teenagers struggle with thoughts and feelings that make it harder to be with friends and do the things they want to do each and every day. If you're struggling with mental health issues, you don't have to keep the hurt inside. Talk to someone.

Teens face a lot of pressure and stress today. It’s OK not to be OK sometimes. Feelings of loneliness, anger, and worry are completely normal, and you’re not alone.

Reaching out for help can be scary, but it’s actually incredibly brave

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33rd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

ECAC is proud to support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 33rd Anniversary. On July 26th we celebrate this important civil rights law that works to ensure all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Celebrate with us by visiting: adaanniversary.org #ADA33 #ThanksToTheADA


Views Expressed Disclaimer

ECAC is providing this newsletter as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the ECAC. The views expressed by guest writers, speakers and artists are their own and their appearance in YEP does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views, thoughts and opinions expressed by YEP contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of ECAC or any of its staff.



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The production of this material was funded by the Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H328M200039. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service or enterprise mentioned is intended or should be inferred.