Meet our 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.

"Happiness in life and being in the now..."
  By Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant
Photo of Molly and tennis coach

Molly Black was featured as an Emerging Leader in 2010. In the years since, certain aspects of her life have remained the same, but she has experienced changes as well. In fact, these days Molly is really "branching out." She is making strides to broaden her horizons in several areas of her life, including diet and beliefs.

When Molly was interviewed six years ago, she had just moved into an apartment with her good friend Keough. This arrangement is working well, and the girls are still fast friends. They like cooking together, experimenting lately with pasta creations. They also share a common interest in television shows, waiting eagerly for new episodes of "Pretty Little Liars." They often invite their friends over and laugh a lot. Both girls make frequent trips home to visit their parents and pets.

In 2010, Molly had begun work in the laundry room at Missoula's downtown Holiday Inn. She still holds this position. Molly likes this job and says it is a great place to work. She has made friends with the other employees, including the managers. However, she wants to branch out soon and find something new.

Molly's sense of adventure keeps her life from becoming stale. She dreams of being a life coach. She told me she would like to arrange this career for herself, saying that she hopes to accomplish her dreams without the help of agencies like Vocational Rehabilitation. She has no hard feelings towards these types of programs and the help they provide, she just wants to do things on her own. Molly is most certainly an independent woman. She is well-spoken and knows what she wants.

I asked her what inspired her to seek a job as a life coach, and she began telling me about Panama Peg. Molly is of Panamanian descent, and in 2010, her father moved back to Panama. That same year, Molly began taking lengthy trips to visit him. It was on her very first trip that she met Panama Peg, a professional tennis coach who lived upstairs of Molly's father. Panama Peg acts as Molly's life coach and plays an extremely valuable role in Molly's life. She is teaching Molly to clean pools, play tennis, and follow a healthy diet. Additionally, Panama Peg is schooling Molly in the field of karma, which Molly has taken to strongly. I asked her to define what karma meant to her, and she said, "Happiness in life and being in the now."

Panama Peg and Molly's father no longer live at the same country club. They are about an hour away from each other, so Molly splits her time between the two towns. She is in Panama for three to five months a year, plenty of time to soak up sun and perfect her tennis serve. Panama Peg is a member of the local Rotary Club, and Molly has been appointed an honorary member. She helps advocate on several issues such as providing wheelchairs for those who cannot afford them, educating students on environmental concerns, and medical transport out of rural Panama. Recently, the club's efforts helped provide a CAT scan machine to the local hospital. (One of Molly's friends had died due to an aneurysm in his stomach. The hospital had not had the proper technology to diagnose it.) She told me another story about one of her friends in the Rotary Club. The man had had an accident, called himself an ambulance, and the driver had made a stop at the man's bank, demanding payment up front. Molly is a strong advocate for herself, but it is clear that she is passionate about advocating for others, too.

When Molly is in Missoula, she participates in Special Olympics. She uses this as an opportunity to improve her tennis game. She works on her fitness in events like swimming, the softball throw, and running. She would like to join a tennis team in Missoula. She confided in me that she would like to find a husband on the tennis court. She also receives voice lessons and is working on her singing.

Molly is the embodiment of a driven woman. She is independent and holds herself to high expectations. She is not content doing the same things day after day. She appreciates change, and she is not afraid to branch out. She would make an outstanding life coach, and I believe wholeheartedly that she can accomplish this dream of hers.

Molly and Friends on Facebook

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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