February 2012

Featured Emerging Leader

Transition and Employment Projects

One of the goals of the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects is to expand the vision of what is possible for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities to learn, live, work and play in their communities. We have been capturing stories of Montanans under age 34 who have a developmental disability according to the Montana definition and who have creatively organized their supports to:


  • Live in the community (on their own or with family or friends) and/or
  • Work in the community (including owning their own business) and/or
  • Access inclusive education (high school, college, community classes) and/or
  • Participate in recreation and leisure activities that are inclusive (that is, alongside people without disabilities)

Each month, we share one of these stories with Listserv members. You may also read about Montana's Emerging Leaders in our Featured EL Archives, 2009 EL Showcase [PDF] and 2010 EL Showcase [PDF]. To nominate yourself or someone else as an Emerging Leader, visit the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects web site.


Interviewed by Ellen Condon, Transition and Employment Projects Director


Brock is a 17-year-old junior at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Montana. He is the youngest of four children. Brock's family has raised cattle and ranched this area for over three generations. Brock is passionate about rodeo, especially rough stock events such as bull riding, saddle bronc and the wild horse race. He is quite skilled and patient in explaining these events to people with no rodeo experience in a way that they can comprehend them.


Brock uses a manual wheelchair to get around, which one might think would be quite limiting to life on a ranch; however, Brock and his family don't seem to let this slow him down. When the family is working out in the fields digging potatoes, Brock drives the four-wheeler with a cart attached to do his part. He transfers in and out of vehicles so is a participant in other ranch activities as well. He enjoys calving season so he can go out and check on baby calves with his dad but he doesn't like watching the calving process.


Brock's dad Seth explained that he had gotten to know other ranchers who used wheelchairs when not on horseback and he paid attention to the accommodations they used to be able to ride effectively. Seth has adapted saddles for Brock to help him maintain an upright position, especially when the horse is jumping ditches (which Brock enjoys). Years ago, following a longstanding family tradition, Brock and his family rode seven miles to a mountain lake where they camped for the weekend. Brock recently got a new horse and his dad mentioned the need to start working on a new saddle for him so they can get back out to the mountains.


Brock is very involved in the local Boy Scouts, which are part of his church. His Scout leader helps him choose badges to work on that will require the fewest accommodations (swimming, first aid, shooting...) and then negotiates with the Scouting association for alternative performance measures or ways for Brock to achieve the badges.   His Scout leader also introduced Brock to raising lambs and showing them at the fair. Brock's first year competing, he won grand champion and is now focusing on breeding and raising some additional lambs.


Brock's most serious passion is hunting. In his room he has a stuffed turkey that he shot in the Bitterroot and a deer mount on his wall. All of his hunting trips are captured on film and the photos are arranged in his hunting album. Brock has limited strength in his hands and they tend to shake. He explained that he steadies his rifle on the door of the vehicle or a gun mount to shoot.   This year his hunting was delayed due to an extended medical stay in a hospital. As soon as he was physically able he was out with his dad and able to get his white tail buck deer.


Brock will graduate from high school in approximately a year and a half. He and his family are wondering what life will look like after high school for Brock. He will probably live at home initially but then may want to move into town to be closer to activity, his future job and his friends. While 'formal' disability services may be sparse in a rural town such as Dillon, community connections and creative solutions are not. Brock is well-known and well-connected in his community. He will need some support on his job and to live away from home but my guess is that his neighbors, friends, and community will all play a part in helping him achieve success as a young adult.



Brock with Deer 












Kim Brown
MT Transition Listserv


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This publication was produced by the University of Montana's

Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects.