"I remember when I attended Partners in Policymaking several years ago. My daughter, Gracie, who has a developmental disability was very young. I knew advocating for her would be especially difficult because there were so many things I didn't know...Before Partners I felt lost. After Partners I felt empowered. I knew I could make a difference, not just for my daughter but for others with developmental disabilities.
So what have I done with the knowledge I have gained at Partners? I am on the Executive Committee of the WV Developmental Disabilities Council and Vice-President of the Down Syndrome Network of WV. I also work as a Service Coordinator for the WV Birth to Three [Program] and that is so I can assist families of young children with developmental disabilities and to serve as a resource to other Birth to Three practitioners. I have met with my legislators in Charleston and Washington D.C. I attend town hall meetings and gatherings that my legislators may be at so I can discuss my concerns. I also take every opportunity to attend conferences and trainings so I can keep myself educated and informed...so I can better advocate for individuals with disabilities. I encourage people to attend Partners in Policymaking and share with them what a positive experience it has been for me and my family. Working together we can make a change so we are all valued and appreciated".
"Through the training that you have provided me over the past eight months I have gained a greater understanding of the disability advocacy movement. I have seen a great change in my fellow students. I remember the frustration, anger, and confusion many of them voiced during the first few sessions. They felt helpless against administration and even their service providers. Now I see them as empowered individuals ready to go out and take control of whatever sitauation that they have to face all due to the knowledge they have gained in the Partners in Policymaking program. With the knowledge and experience I have gained from Partners in Policymaking, I will serve the disability community to the best of my ability. Thanks to Partners, I feel that I am more equipped to help bring change to issues that affect the disability community and myself through policy making".
"I want to thank the Developmental Disabilities Council for letting me take part in this awesome experience. I have decided that by developing an Advocacy Coalition in the eastern panhandle I can help educate others about their rights and the rights of their loved ones. Maybe with a stronger advocacy presence in the panhandle people will be forced to see people with disabilities as the valuable people that they are. With a strong group of advocates we can prove that children have the right to be educated with their neighbors and peers. I don't want my son to only have relationships with people with diabilities and I don't want my other boys to only have friendships with non-disabled peers".
"I have told my friends to join Partners in Policymaking and they have seen also the information and resources we have received here." My thank you is to the DD Council for accepting me to the program...and to everyone in the class because...you all are pretty big inspriations to me".
"I [want] to be a resource person to other Specialized Family Care Providers. I would like to start a support group for all the providers. I would encourage all of them to attend [this] training because it has been wonderful".
"Eleven years ago I started on a path I knew nothing about. On many occasions I felt lost and hopeless. While on this path I have encountered constant roadblocks and stumbled many times. I knew that giving up was never an option I would ever choose. I knew that one day someone would come along and show me a different path. Eight months ago that someone came along and it was Partners in Policymaking. Through your support and knowledge you have so freely given, I now see this path as beautifully as I always envisioned it could be. Through your guidance I have learned that many other roadblocks I stumbled over were my lack of knowledge and the obstacles were my own fear and insecurities.
I can honestly say being part of this group has changed my life and the life of my daughter and for that I am eternally grateful. I can only hope that the confidence and hope you now see inside me can be thanks enough. With the education and resources you have provided me, I have started a support group in my county, become a member of the Fair Shake Network and I've applied to several other advocacy groups. I recently began teaching the IEP process to other parents in my county and will continue to help them be an advocate for their children.
I plan to show my appreciation for Partners in Policymaking by recommending it to every family and individual in need of the training you provide. On this new path I know I will face obstacles and stumble but I am convinced I will find my way and my classmates will be there to support me".
"I want to thank the DD Council for educating me...and I plan to start a support group in my county to help families because I had to fight the school system my whole life. I had to stand in front of [my] school my eighth grade year with a sign saying vote for me to stay at this school. The school system wanted to send me to [another] school an hour and a half away. I stood out there for a week and won. Hopefully I can help kids not have to go through things like that".
"I have told families at my support groups about my experiences at Partners in Policymaking and will continue to do so. I will also encourage families to become more involved with their legislators and become more knowledgeable about policies and procedures that affect themselves or family members. I feel my time spent at Partners in Policymaking has been very rewarding. Not only the knowledge we obtained but the networking with so many wonderful people has been great".
"I was diagnosed eight year ago Asperger's Syndrome. If I had known I had a disability years ago, my life may have been different. Maybe I would have chosen a different career in college. I also would have received the supports I needed and a placement that was appropriate for me. I hope to use my contacts to get a job.
I will encourage everyone to attend the PIP program; I take every opportunity to talk about it. When I go to Camp Gizmo in July...I will tell people what it is like to live with a disability and I will tell them about the PIP program. And, I will tell people at the Autism Conference".
"I want to thank everyone who put together Partners in Policymaking and everyone who told me about it. Now that I have completed Partners in Policymaking, I will tell everyone about it. I want to teach kids about art at hospitals,...attend disability related events, and help get the word out".
"I have a son with developmental disabilities and being [his] voice has been the hardest job in my life. Now that I have completed Partners in Policymaking, I feel that with the information I have learned, I can be a better advocate for my son and I can teach him to be a better advocate for himself. I will be able to disperse accurate information throughout the families I know and find them better resources that they will need to help their families.
I will encourage others to attend Partners in Policymaking so they will gain useful information so they can be a voice for themselves or family member. I have a portfolio of Partners in Policymaking references and I promise to keep it current. I will stay informed of any disability related laws and will contact my legislators. I will rally with my fellow Partners in Policymaking graduates. I want to thank the WV Developmental Disabilities Council for all the hard work to plan and prepare the Partners in Policymaking classes and inviting me to be part of a statewide group of individuals who are taught the necessary skills to influence the system for people with developmental disabilities".
"I would like to thank the Council for putting on this wonderful program and giving me the opportunity to be here. My journey didn't start eight months ago with Partners in Policymaking; it started five years ago when my son was born. He was born with Down syndrome. We didn't know what that meant for him or for us. Our family rallied around us. Every day we learn something about him or from him and we thank God He put that blessing in our lives.
I heard many people say what a great experience they had in the Birth to Three program and they want to get involved and give back. I do as well. Last year my family had the opportunity to attend Camp Gizmo. It was an eye opening experience for us; it was amazing. We learned as much and made as many contacts in four days as we would have in four years on our own. It is also where we heard about Partners in Policymaking. We were so excited and all I knew was what I didn't know. So I called and was told I missed the deadline. So I said please, I am so excited. I just heard about it at Camp Gizmo. So, I was put on hold for about ten minutes and then told, OK, we can let you in. So, thank you very much!
It has been really interesting and informative and I just can't say enough about how impressed I am with all the people who came to share their knowledge and all the people from all around the country who believe in Partners in Policymaking so much that they came to share their knowledge with us. And now, we have to go and share our knowledge with everyone else. I have been disseminating information I received from Partners in Policymaking to others. I just found out we are going to be able to attend Camp Gizmo this year as a helpful family to help families have the great experience that we did. Now, hopefully I have the tools to do that. My goal is to get at least one person to be a Partners in Policymaking Participant. It's been a great experience".
"Now that I have completed Partners in Policymaking, my plan is to build a more inclusive community and school system. I have had that plan since my son was born. He was diagnosed as having Down syndrome at birth. The information I have received over the last few months has given me the knowledge to be a better advocate for my son and others and help pave the way for others with disabilities.
I would like to thank the DD Council for offering Partners in Policymaking. I am leaving with a lot of information and many new friends".
"I really would like to thank the DD Council; it has been such a great experience. My son was diagnosed at 22 months with autism. At that time not too much was known about autism. There wasn't a lot of hope. But, I knew I loved him and I knew it was up to me to go out and do what I could for him. And, that is what I did.
Because of involvement with Partners in Policymaking I believe I have a better understanding of the legislative process and who I should be speaking with. I have enjoyed getting to know everyone here and believe we can support each other in upcoming issues. If we stand together we can really bring about change".
"I would like to thank the DDC and everyone who made Partners in Policymaking happen. By taking Partners in Policymaking I feel like I have a lot of information that can help a lot of different people. I have a better understanding of issues affecting people with disabilities and would like to continue to work on legislative issues. I will also recommend others like me to take Partners in Policymaking. Now I have taken this course I feel like I can educate others about resources I now know about. I would also like to speak to future graduates. If you believe it you can achieve it".
"I would like to thank the DDC about giving me the chance to learn about different places and people. I will use what I learned to help myself and others to obtain jobs they choose to do. We can never give up on our dreams. We may never act or do things the way [people] think we should but we deserve to have everything life has to offer".
"I want to tell my friends all about what I learned at Partners in Policymaking. They have the right to to gainful employment. I know I can".