Access to Pride, Participation, Leadership and Community
For most of us, taking pride in our race, religion, and family traditions has led us to feel engaged, valued, and connected to our community. Our pride has given us purpose to live a self–directed life, to participate and even lead in our community. But if you have difficulty expressing yourself and feel disconnected from personal pride, the right to feel engaged, valued, and connected to “community” is inaccessible.
“I was a shy girl,” Zorytza explains. With an invisible Learning Disability and Speech Communication Disability she had difficulty expressing herself as a young person. While her parents and teachers were great advocates for her education, it was hard to fight for the right accommodations. Peers told her, “You can't succeed because you can't talk to people.” Surrounded by “can't” she was constantly reminded by her parents, “You can do it, Zorytza.” Even as she struggled to succeed academically, she set–out to prove her peers wrong. She set three firm goals for herself: give a speech, attend college, and in the distant future, find a job. Upon graduation, Zortyza gave a speech in front of her school. Goal One, Accomplished . Zorytza was slowly realizing her potential and ability to succeed with her disability. A school counselor recognized Zorytza's ambitions and pointed her to Access Living (AL).
“You Have Goals. You Have Passions. You Go For It!” At her first trip to Access Living, Zorytza met Amber, then a Youth Organizer and now the Director of Advocacy at AL. Amber saw Zorytza's potential for leadership and encouraged her to join YIELD, AL's 16–week workshop for youth with disabilities. Through YIELD Zorytza learned about disability culture and history, how to stand up for her rights as an individual with a disability, and how to make the community better for people with disabilities. She also joined the Empowered Fe Fe's (Fierce Females), AL's peer and action group for girls that fosters disability pride and develops a positive sense of self. Zorytza learned that, “Disability is beautiful, and it is powerful.” Zorytza claimed her disability pride and with tenacity graduated from college. Goal Two, Accomplished.
“You Can't Tell Me, I Can't. I Push the Limit.” Upon graduation from YIELD, Zorytza was accepted into AL's Advanced Youth Leadership Program (AYLP), a select advocacy group for youth that builds qualities of leadership and teaches organizing strategies for making grassroots social change. Zorytza put these techniques into practice by volunteering at AL. Taking part in social actions and advocacy, Zortyza became a regular participant in AL's community fight for independence for people with disabilities. In the height of her participation, both of Zorytza's parents passed away. The community at AL gave her social and emotional support through this difficult time. AL encouraged her to return to participate. She says, “They called me [to come] back.” Equipped with a sense of pride, skills to participate, leadership, and now feeling the full support of the community Zorytza says, “I am a new person.”
Recently, AL hired Zorytza as a Staff Associate, an expanded part–time employment program to learn and practice professional skills transferrable to any job. She works with the same peer and advocacy groups that have given her the tools to succeed. Zorytza shares that she is committed to giving others the same chance AL has given her. “AL has opened my eyes. I am given the opportunity to help with students who were so shy like me.” Goal three, Accomplished.
Celebrate Zorytza's accomplishments and open the door to other success by supporting Access Living's Matching Gift Challenge.
We are excited to share with you that Access Living has recently received an anonymous, dollar–for–dollar matching challenge.
Any new or increased gift you might consider this year will be matched by an anonymous foundation. Your gift could provide twice the support for Access Living's programs and services!
Everyday, Access Living opens its doors– fostering independence to make our community accessible for all people with disabilities. The AL community is the first step toward broader change. We empower individuals in our accessible community to be change agents in the communities in which they live.
This holiday season, please consider a gift that supports the work of Access Living and young advocates like Zorytza!
Thanks for your consideration.
Have a great holiday season.