Meet this month's Featured Emerging Leader!
Emerging Leaders

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 Transition Email List 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.

Meet Malia, A True Montana Emerging Leader
Interview by Maclaen Burningham, Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council Member; Story by Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant
Malia smiling as she takes a selfie

I spoke with Malia nine days before her life was scheduled to change. In a short period of time, she will turn 18, graduate early from high school in Great Falls, move to Butte, and start her education at Job Corps in Anaconda. During her year of training, Malia hopes to become skilled as a brick layer. Her second and third choices are heavy equipment operator or carpenter.

Malia is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. When I asked if she was nervous about completing Job Corps as a teen with a disability, she assured me she was not. Malia has what every leader needs - a willingness to progress and develop. She feels no need to hide her disability. When she graduates from Job Corps, she wants to tattoo her arm with the "Autism Puzzle Piece," a colorful symbol that suggests autism's complexity.

Malia acts and dreams like any teenage girl. She plays video games, uses social media daily, records "reaction videos" (where she films herself reacting to watching a video) for YouTube, lip syncs on Dubsmash, loves her pets, and, in five years, hopes to have a fulfilling career and a family of her own. In January 2016, she joined the Rural institute for Inclusive Communities as a Consumer Advisory Council member. Malia will be able to help shape the direction of the Rural Institute and continue developing her own leadership and self-advocacy skills.

I asked Malia for three adjectives she would use to describe herself and she listed "bright, outgoing, and kind." Those are great traits that will carry her far in life.

Good luck, Malia!

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.

Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects
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