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Youth Ability and Power: Come Build Your Voice at the Youth Leadership Summit

Youth Ability and Power: Come Build Your Voice at the Youth Leadership Summit

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with PEAK's two youth trainers, Emily Tamayo and Dan Smith.

A road trip across I-70 was in order for the three of us to conduct a training in Grand Junction. As we maneuvered the ess curves up and over snowy Vail Pass alongside the Colorado River and on through DeBeque Canyon I took the time to ask them about something they are both very passionate about-working with youth!

If you have been a part of PEAK Parent Center's Annual Conference on Inclusive Education for the past 3 years you are aware that we have implemented a part of the conference for youth only. It is PEAK's desire to give youth with varying abilities ages 16-21 a special part in our conference. We aim to provide self-advocacy and leadership skills!

This year there is a new name - Youth Leadership Summit - and a new schedule. The Youth Leadership Summit will, once again, run concurrently with the Conference on Inclusive Education, but will have its own unique schedule starting later in the day, its own youth friendly meals, and will occasionally intersect with Inclusive Conference participants. The format will be highly experiential with the needs of the youth participant taken into consideration.

The goal of the Summit is to encourage independence and prepare participants for transition into adulthood relevant to their own lives and experience. At PEAK we know and believe each youth has their own unique strengths, abilities, and skills. Participants will be led through exercises to understand theirs, and will leave the session feeling more confident. This model is built on strengths

I asked Emily and Dan to reflect on the previous two years' youth conferences, Dan said, "We really like the fellowship that the youth get; to meet and hang out with self-advocates from other cities and states that are going through the same thing that they are." What a great way for youth to make connections! Emily was most impressed in the way the Youth Summit is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, "One of the things that I like is the inclusive environment that we are practicing. We are working with youth with varying abilities and modeling how we can work together."

We want youth who come to the Youth Leadership Summit to experience more of a retreat. With this new format we are hoping to have a completely different experience for the youth from their parents' experience in the regular conference. Expect youth to come back having "done" things and learned from them rather than going to the conference to learn how to do and then implement on their own. Spoiler alert: youth may be in charge of providing conference entertainment!

One of our goals is modeling inclusive practices by focusing on ability and power. Dan said, "We want youth to know that nobody gives you power. It is already in you and no one can take your power from you." Youth must understand that they do not need permission. Emily added, "The term disability is 'dis' 'ability' meaning without ability. Ability and power are inherent within all of us."

Another goal for the new Youth Leadership Summit format is an understanding of community and knowing yourself. What does knowing yourself have to do with community? Emily and Dan believe that knowing yourself is about knowing not just who you are inside, but knowing those in your community that you can trust and rely on. Knowing your network of support, and how you can transform your world. Knowing yourself is about community; it's about connectedness and where you fit within your community and what gifts you have to offer.

We invite youth to join Dan and Emily and come build your voice! For more information and for registration please visit the Youth Leadership Summit section of our website.

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