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.

"Never Give Up. Never Give In. Never Quit."
  By Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant
Allison playing piano

Allison is a cheerful young woman. Those who know her describe her as kindhearted and always willing to help. She has a smile that can light up an entire room. Allison lives in Billings with her family. She graduated high school last year and is driven to reach many goals for her future.

Currently, Allison is seeking employment. She works with a job coach provided by Vocational Rehabilitation. Together, they practice interview techniques and apply for positions that interest Allison. She credits herself with being extremely organized and would like a job which reflects this talent. She hopes to work in retail or something similar. When we spoke, she had been called for an interview at an event venue in Billings.

Allison shows her willingness to help others by volunteering each summer at the Montana Youth Leadership Forum, MYLF, held at Carroll College in Helena. Here, Montana youth with disabilities have the opportunity to experience technology in a hands-on setting. They also learn success strategies in areas such as job interviewing. Additionally, delegates network with mentors who also live with disabilities. Allison attended as a delegate in 2012, but she has acted as a mentor and volunteer in the years since. Allison appreciates when speakers at the conference are engaged with the delegates. She remembers when one of the keynote speakers, Lederik Horne, a poet with Dyslexia, stuck around after his speech to connect with the attendees of the conference.  Allison plays a role in bringing hope to the delegates. This year she has been appointed to the Montana Youth Council, which means she helps choose the keynote speakers for the conference. Allison notes that events like MYLF promote the idea of a shared experience, that those with disabilities are not alone, and that success is most certainly within reach.

Allison participates in creative activities as well. She loves to dance, play piano, and sing. She participated in high school choir.  She typically plays piano for the MYLF banquet. She also played piano in front of more than 200 people at the Montana Transitions Council, and she wasn't even nervous. Additionally, she plays piano at a benefit for Meadowlark House, a cancer center in Billings. She also enjoys dancing when she can (her favorite style is modern dance), and photography, especially capturing landscapes. For years, she has participated in an ultimate Frisbee league in Billings.

Allison offers this advice to other young people with disabilities: "Never give up. There is always hope. Never give in. Never quit. There are people who will support you. There are people who want to help you succeed in life. You are not alone. Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. You are your leader. Be an inspiration. Don't hold back."

Allison has many goals for her future. She hopes to be employed soon, harboring a dream of being a private piano teacher. She also hopes to start classes at MSU Billings next year. I am certain that Allison will find success on whatever path she chooses.

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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