In an effort to improve transition outcomes for youth, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) has launched the Youth Action Council on Transition (Youth ACT). Youth ACT is a national project for youth between the ages of 12 and 25 and is geared toward getting more youth with disabilities involved as leaders in their communities. These youth leaders will partner with adults and organizations and, as a team, they will harness their efforts on the local and national levels to improve opportunities for youth to succeed. Youth ACT teams will develop youth leadership and advocacy skills as they surge youth voice in their communities and their nation.
Additional teams will be selected each year over the course of a four-year period. The Youth ACT teams will share ideas, receive training, and engage with policymakers both at the national level and within their communities to ensure that ALL youth, including those with disabilities, become successful adults.
So what exactly defines a successful adult? Some may say that a successful adult is one who does not have to rely on anyone for anything. Others may say that a successful adult is an adult who makes a six-figure (e.g. $100,000) income per year. Well I am neither of these; however, I believe that I qualify as successful because I am living my dreams, dreams that so many people believed I would never accomplish as a person with a disability: I recently relocated from Montgomery, Alabama and am currently working in Washington, DC, approximately 800 miles away from my immediate family and the only support system I have ever known.
I have learned to be perfectly fine with having to rely on people for different things, and I have now had enough experiences to know that those people don’t always have to be my parents. While in college, I had about four different friends picking me up in the evenings because the bus did not run after a certain time. A few years ago, I wanted to learn how to swim, so I called upon my physical therapist, at the time, who helped me try some techniques. I actually made it across the pool on my own. Earlier this year, my doctor wanted to refer me to a specialist in another state who did not accept my insurance. I did my own research and found a doctor in my state who had incredible credentials and did accept my insurance. Recently I wanted to become more independent with combing my hair, so I asked my younger cousin to help me to realize my vision of a modified hair pick.
Transitioning is a major process, but it’s one that youth should be able to direct. Though my transition process had its bumps here and there, it was well-worth leading the planning and goal setting for my life. Driving and moving out on my own for the first time took longer to accomplish, causing me to want to give up on several occasions. Several people from different arenas had to be involved at different times and I had to experience some failures in order to appreciate the successes along the way. So maybe I don’t earn a six-figure income YET, but now I am exactly where I want to be, working and living among friends in a big city that extends my interests and sparks my creativity.
It is my hope that as I work with these new Youth ACT teams, that they will be supported in guiding their transition process and that they will be able to help other youth do the same.
- The Youth Action Council on Transition (Youth ACT)
- Blazing the Trail: A New Direction for Youth Development and Leadership: Youth Call-to-Action | NCWD/Youth
- Youth in Action! – Leading Your Transition Planning | NCWD/Youth
- Youth in Action! Becoming a Stronger Self-Advocate | NCWD/Youth
By Jennifer Thomas, Youth Development Specialist with the National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development.