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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 E-Mail 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 Our Featured Emerging Leader
By Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant

Amy seated with birthday cake and candles in front of her
Amy was featured as an Emerging Leader six years ago. She just celebrated her 40th birthday and is constantly changing and growing as a compassionate and independent adult.
Amy's parents live outside of Bozeman, Montana in the Gallatin Gateway. Upon her graduation from Bozeman High School, Amy decided she would like to stay in the area. Her parents bought her a house so she could have her own space. The house is a split-level duplex. Amy rents the first floor, and her family rents out the upstairs. Amy's self-sufficiency goes much further than her ability to live independently. She operates her own vehicle and her driving skills, paired with her GPS, make her unstoppable.
She puts in 15 hours a week on the janitorial staff at Bozeman's Ridge Athletic Club. Many years ago, she began lending a hand there in exchange for a gym membership. Since then, they have hired her as a member of their staff. Amy's dad praises this business and the joy employment has brought to Amy's life. Currently, he is encouraging her to be more conscious of her time management. He wants to instill in her the idea that time commitments must be honored, especially in the working world.
Amy doing TaeKwonDo
Fitness is important in Amy's life. She earned her black belt in taekwondo and attends training every Thursday to continue her progress in this art. She also participates in Special Olympics, with particular interest in the 400 and 800-meter walks. However, she also enjoys basketball, downhill skiing, and swimming. Recently, she decided to pick up bowling again. This change caught her father's attention. In the past, Amy would not push herself to try new things or to retry things she had given up on. When she took the initiative to give bowling another try, Amy commented,
"I have a bowling ball, I should be using it."
This is just one of many new developments Amy's father has noticed. He reflects that she once was reserved and contained in her own world. Over the last few years, she has started to branch out, showing an interest in other people and their events. Amy's parents are glad to see this new level of engagement in their daughter. They attribute it to the maturity she has gained while living on her own. In fact, she is doing so many things independently that most of her public services, such as paratransit, have been terminated. This is good news to the family.
Community involvement is another important area in Amy's life. She volunteers weekly at a local animal shelter, walking and socializing the dogs. Additionally, she volunteers her time at various festivals in the area, mainly helping with kids' activities. Somewhere in her busy schedule, Amy finds time for creative expression. She plays piano and receives weekly lessons from a teacher in the area. She also writes stories about angels, which she hopes to see converted into a film one day.
Amy leads a rich life. Her involvement in the community is valuable. She serves as an important role model to others with and without disabilities. As an adolescent, Amy was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a disorder which mimics many symptoms of Autism. Her mother would like it known that this condition is extremely underdiagnosed; only six individuals in Montana have been officially categorized. However, the actual rate is much higher. Amy's family praises the doctors who clued them in to their daughter's world. Despite any limitations posed by Fragile X, Amy flourishes in all areas of her life.

Amy standing in the forest smiling

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.