For Sam Anderson, a high school junior from Parkville, Missouri, the 2018 Missouri Youth Leadership Forum was a chance to “join a family.”
The week-long forum, hosted by the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Paraquad, Inc., was held July 11-14 on the University of Missouri Campus.
Along with other partnering organizations and returning alumni, members of the MU College of Education’s Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) served as facilitators, logistical support, dorm parents and more, to help with the event.
The Missouri Youth Leadership Forum centers on providing leadership and self-advocacy training, job and college preparation, and mentoring students with disabilities. The forum also offers fun opportunities such as a visit to the state capitol building, a talent show, a dance, and a variety of speakers and social networking.
“From the first day of the forum, this program has helped me unlock things in myself,” said Anderson. “I’m learning how to be the man I’ve always wanted to be and that’s hard thing to learn, but this has been easy. I like how, in a really fun way, we learn to empower ourselves.”
Bob Simpson, the project director for Pre-ETS, said that while the focus of the program remains on workplace readiness, counseling and job exploration, the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum is important because it gives students a chance to make friends. “For many of these students, the leadership forum is a real opportunity to have some fun and blow off some steam.”
“When I first came here I found people that were a lot like me, and I found people that were really different,” said Lily Womack, an alumna of the program and a high school senior from Billings, Missouri. She served as a team member this year.
“I found this passion, and I said I have to get involved with this,” said Womack. “You get to make so many connections and we support each other. You could not find a better group of people.”