March 2015

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 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)

As we receive them, we share 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.

Sierra in graduation cap and gown in front of grizzly statue on UM campus

An Emerging Leader Update

By Sierra Lode, Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council Member   

A lot has happened in my life since I wrote my first "Emerging Leader" story in August 2011. On May 12, 2012, I graduated from the University of Montana College of Missoula with an Associate of Arts Degree. Because of my severe disabilities it took me six years (two classes a semester) to achieve that goal.

My next endeavor was to transfer my Section 8 renter's voucher into a home purchase voucher and move to Helena where I grew up. My parents are still living close to the Helena area and are my main supporters. Purchasing a home with a Section 8 voucher is a very intense process involving a huge amount of paperwork and connecting with the right people. I had a lot of help with a lot of good people who believe in my desire to lead an independent lifestyle. I had great success in finding just the right house to turn into just the right "home". Patience and tenacity truly paid off.  

The next big event was to let the world know I was ready to start my Sierra using her eye-gaze computer motivational speaking career and put together my website. You can find me on:
I am more than willing to travel to do my presentations. I speak on different topics pertaining to young adults who will be transitioning into adulthood; my most passionate topic is "The Missing Therapy" - being disabled as well as suffering from depression. I speak honestly and from the heart because depression has long been a part of my persona.

I continue to be an active member of the University of Montana Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council as I have for several years, and most recently I have been part of a peer advocacy group of the Montana Independent Living Project in Helena. Last August I was invited to attend a week-long self-advocacy training in San Francisco sponsored by the Pacific Alliance on Disability Self-Advocacy. The training was intense,  rewarding, and a wonderful learning opportunity.

I am continuing on the path to help out youth with disabilities who are transitioning into living and thriving as adults.




Kim Brown
MT Transition Listserv


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This project is funded in whole or in part under a contract with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department.