YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this eNews
New Central RYP
8TH Annual Teen Conference: FLPN Youth Program
Film Event: Voices from the Emotional Underground
Tell us about your employment experiences
OPWDD State Plan Hearing
Youth Policy Update: Employment First Executive Order
New Website to Combat Heroin Use
Disabled and Proud: Dare to Dream
October is Youth Justice Awareness Month
October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
Apply for a Congressional Internship
Get in on social Justice conversations with these hashtags:
#getcovered Health Insurance for all
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
#STPP School to Prison Pipeline
#YJAM Youth Justice Awareness Month
People with Disabilities
Connect with YP!
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Spread Hope With US!
Save these Dates:
FTNYS Legislative Awareness Day
FTNYS Annual Conference with YP! Youth Track 
Albany NY
Stay Safe Tonight
& Have Fun!
YP! Welcomes Katie Rushlo as the 
Central Regional Youth Partner

Katie ctands holding a hope sign in front of a painted wall that says nothing about us without us

Hello all,


I am excited be now be a part of the YOUTH POWER! Team.  I have an extreme passion for the work we do here for "labeled" youth. I was in the Foster Care system for 7 years and have been involved with youth advocacy for 10 years now. I started my journey of seeking change with the NYS regional advocacy team YIP (Youth In Progress). I have experience working in the Child Welfare system and was able to see the system through the eyes of a young person in the system as well as an adult working for the system. Having experience on both sides of the fence has opened my eyes to many issues that need to be addressed across all state systems. I also worked for the "At-Risk Youth College Access Program", where I educated youth in Foster Care and the Juvenile Justice System about obtaining a higher education. I graduated with an associate's degree in Humanities with a concentration in Psychology from SUNY Cobleskill in 2010 and obtained my Bachelors in Forensic Psychology from Walden University in 2013.


I am the new Central Regional Youth Partner for YP! and am eager to start working with a team of young people who share a passion to change the system. I believe that youth voice should be heard and practiced and that youth should be considered partners and not clients. I enjoy sharing my experience about being in the system and how I overcame barriers to be where I am today. I cannot say enough how honored I am to have been given this opportunity to not only perform the work I have a passion for, but to also work with a team of great people that share the same passions.


Contact Katie at or 315-679-1476


On Tuesday, Americans across the country will head to the polls to cast ballots in races for local, state and national offices. Here, Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo is running for reelection against Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Third party candidates include Howie Hawkins of the Green Party. Governor Cuomo has been cross endorsed by the Working Family, Women's Equality and Independence parties. Rob Astorino has been cross-endorsed on the Stop Common Core party. Read up on the three candidates by following the links to their websites.


Other statewide races include Attorney General and Comptroller. 


All members of the Senate and the Assembly are up for re-election.


All members of the United States House of Representative are up for re-election. Neither of New York's two United States Senators are up for re-election this year.


Exercise your right to vote! Don't complain if you don't vote.


Find your polling locations here.

8th Annual Teen Conference
FLPN Youth Program 

Finger Lakes Parent Network Inc. Youth Program Presents: The 8th Annual Teen Conference: Chain Reaction: Today's decision affects tomorrow's choice. Save the date: November 15, 2014. Held at: Avoca Baptist Church. Including our keynote speaker: Youth and Parent Panel: Youth and parents share their life experiences. Also featuring: participate in our annual art show, youth (ages 12 - 21) workshops on self-esteem, teen dating violence, bullying stress prevention and substance abuse, parent workshops on setting limits for your youth, substance abuse and reacting to your child in tough situations, youth professional workshops on positively engaging multiple personalities within a group. Contact Cassandra Morse at 607-776-2164 or for more information  

The Finger Lakes Parent Network Inc. Youth Program presents the 8th Annual Teen Conference

Chain Reaction: Today's decision affects tomorrow's choice

November 15, 2014, Avoca Baptist Church


Workshops for youth and parents/guardians


Contact Cassandra Morse at 607-776-2164 or for more information.

Join YOUTH POWER! and Partners for a film event:
Voices from the Emotional Underground

Voices of the Emotional Underground: A hopeful evening of transformative stories and alternative perspectives from people who have experienced the mental health system. The Sactuary for Independent Media 3361 6th Ave, North Troy NY Thurs night, Nov 20, 2014 5:30 pm film: Crooked Beauty (2010 - 30 min), 6:00 pm: Community potluck (bring a healthy dish to share) 7pm: films by the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community: Beyond the Medical Model (2013, excerpts to be shown), and the Virtues of Non Compliance (2014, 25 min). Winner - best short Mad in America's International Film Festival. 8pm: Panel discussion and public forum. Sera Davidow, filmmaker and director, Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community, Sascha Altman DuBrul, co-founder, The Icarus Project. Admission by donation: $10 suggested, $5 students/low income. Co-sponsors: iEAR Presents, Mental Health Empowerment Project, NY Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Families Together in New York State, YOUTH POWER!, For more info: or 518-692-8242


Voices from the Emotional Underground will take place on November 20 starting at 6:00 pm at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, New York.


Admission by donation is $10 (suggested) or $5 students/low income.


Bring food for a potluck starting at 6:00 pm. 

Tell us about your experiences with education and employment

Do you struggle to find a job or continue your education? Can you think about a time when no matter how hard you tried to pursue a goal, things just kept getting in your way?

If so, it is time to SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT!

YP! is working with the NYS Department of Labor for their youth employment initiative E3: Engage. Educate. Employ. This initiative will provide training and webinars to youth and youth service professionals on critical education/workforce topics ranging anywhere from knowing where to start and knowing your rights to becoming an entrepreneur!

To ensure that YOUR voices are heard, we are looking for YOUth to share their stories and experiences facing barriers to education or employment.

Send a quote providing insight into the barriers you face, or a story describing a situation where you were not able to pursue an educational/employment goal to Brianna Valesey, Youth Engagement Consultant, at or 518-432-0333 ext. 31.

Be sure to check in on our Facebook page for updates on the initiative!


  • YP! Tumblr 
  • New section of the YP! Website dedicated to E3
  • "Introducing YOUTH POWER! and how we can help you"
    • Webinar for youth service professionals
    • November 12th at 9:30 am

For more information, or questions regarding E3 Contact Brianna Valesey at or 518-432-0333 ext. 31


Provide input to the OPWDD State Plan


It is important that OPWDD hears from young people. Please consider offering written or verbal comments.  Follow this link to review the agency's current strategic plan, Statewide Comprehensive Plan for Services: 


It is crucial that families are encouraged to speak up in writing or at the hearing.  Please consider sharing your experiences with services and/or concerns for the future and recommendations for change.


See the notice below to learn how you can offer comments.


The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

Announces a Public Hearing
October 27, 2014: 1pm - 5pm


OPWDD will be accepting your comments, feedback and testimony at the hearing to help develop our 5.07 Statewide Comprehensive Plan for Services 2014-2018. This hearing will be held at eight locations across the state and will be conducted as a live video-conference with Acting Commissioner Kerry Delaney. 


OPWDD urges self-advocates, parents as well as other family members, non-profit providers, professionals, advocates, and other interested parties to participate in the hearing.


The Statewide Comprehensive Plan for Services will reflect OPWDD's mission and vision and will project our 5 year plan for implementing the transformational agenda around supporting people with developmental disabilities to enjoy meaningful relationships, experience personal health and growth, live in the home of their choice and fully participate in their communities. 


Speakers will be asked to register in advance of the public hearing, limit their comments to three (3) minutes, and bring three (3) copies of the testimony.  Deadline for registration is close of business on Thursday, October 23. Opportunity for presentation will be limited to a first come first served basis as time permits. 

If you are unable to attend, written testimony can be submitted to:

Ray Pierce, OPWDD, 44 Holland Avenue, Albany, NY 12229 or via e-mail at

The hearing sites will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Sign language interpreters will be provided. Individuals who require other accommodation or auxiliary aids should notify the conference location contact person identified below no later than 24 hours prior to the hearing date.

For general information about the Public Forums, please contact 

OPWDD's Strategic Planning Office:
Phone: (518) 473-9697    Fax: (518) 473-0054   

Youth Policy Update:
Employment First Commission

YP Youth Policy Update

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an executive order to establish the Employment First Commission, tasked with creating an Employment First policy for New York, which makes competitive, integrated employment the first option when considering supports and services for people with disabilities. 


The initiative aims to increase the employment rate and decrease the poverty rate for New Yorkers who are receiving services from the State, as well as register 100 businesses as having formal policies to hire people with disabilities as part of their workforce strategy.


"Equality and inclusiveness play a central role in the history of New York State and today we are continuing that legacy by standing up for the employment needs of people with disabilities," Governor Cuomo said. "This Executive Order relays what we stand for as New Yorkers - it will help provide fair opportunities to all people, and I am proud to move our state forward by signing it."


The Employment First policy is part of a national movement to support the employment of people with disabilities. The employment rate for a New Yorker with a disability aged 18-64 is 31.2% compared to 72% for a person without a disability. In addition, the poverty rate for New Yorkers with disabilities aged 18-64 living in the community is 28.6%, which is more than twice that of people in New York State without disabilities 12.3%. 


The Governor has set a tentative goal of a 5% increase in the employment rate and a 5% decrease in the poverty rate for people with disabilities.


Click Here to read the official press release, and Executive Order

YOUTH POWER! is working with the New York State Department of Labor to build career empowerment and self advocacy skills in young people with disabilities as they enter the workforce. We will will also educate workforce professionals to improve youth targeted service delivery. 


For more information about the Youth Employment Initiative, contact Brianna Valesey, Youth Engagement Consultant at or 518-432-0333 ext. 31.

State Introduces Website to Combat Heroin Use


Combat Heroin NY HOPE Over the summer, the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services implemented a public-awareness campaign in partnership with with Department of Health. A website targeted at parents, adults and young people was developed. It includes information about warning signs of heroin and opioid abuse and misuse, access to OASAS treatment providers and helpful ideas for parents and providers to initiate a conversation about drug use.



Disabled and Proud: Dare to Dream
Katie Rushlo

Lauren Potter, keynote speaker at Disabled and Proud. Actress on Fox's hit show Glee This month I got to attend my first conference representing YOUTH POWER!, Syracuse University had their "Disabled and Proud: Dare to Dream" event October 18th and 19th, 2014. I attended this event on behalf of YP! and set up a table in the exhibit room. The event totaled around 250 participants, which more than half traveled from outside the Northeast. There were people from all over the country who shared similar ideas and values as the ones we hold at YP!.


Having the opportunity to attend this event in the mist of my new position was a blessing; it allowed me to get my feet wet in my new position. I was able to meet so many great people and make great connections with different agencies and groups so early in my position. Having been Central RYP for only 3 weeks I attended this event with nervousness, I had never represented YP! before, and was nervous that I would struggle with the right words when talking about what YP! does and what I do in my position. For the first hour I maintained that nervousness, but as more people passed my table I gained confidence. I can say that by the end of the weekend I left with much more confidence and with a boatload of information that I had learned.


The event featured the exhibit hall, special keynote speakers, and presenters, all whom have experiences living with a disability. The event also featured informative breakout sessions throughout both days. I was honored to have the opportunity to sit in with Lydia Brown, as she presented "How They Hurt Us: Violence in the Academy", where she talked about the different paradigms and attitudes about disabilities as well as "ableism". I also sat in on "Disability Identity 101" presented by Cara Liebowitz and Patrick Graham. In this presentation I learned a lot about the deaf culture, which was extremely interesting and got me thinking about volunteering in a deaf school in an attempt to learn the American Sign Language.

I would have to say that one of my favorite parts of the event was listening to keynote speaker, Keith Jones, President and CEO of "SoulTouchin' Experiences" in Boston. He was not only informative in his talk, but he added so much humor that the audience were in tears of laughter. I met a remarkable group of high school students who participate in "I Am Norm"- an inclusion campaign that aims to end labels and bullying. This group is currently only active in Liverpool High School, a suburb of Syracuse. They are trying to get the campaign to other schools but have difficulties due to funding. I also got to meet with the Syracuse Unversity's DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring) board of directors and see what they do and how we can work together. In addition to these awesome people I got to meet, there were so many others, people who are passionate about changing the way the disability community is viewed, treated, and their lack of rights. I can honestly say that the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education and the School of Education at Syracuse University did a phenomenal job at planning and hosting the event. Another great thing about the event was that registration was free, which allowed many non-profit and other smaller organizations to attend. I already can't wait to attend the event next year! 

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month #YJAM
End the Solitary Confinement of Youth
Melanie Hecker

Youth Justice Awareness Month Word Cloud: families, policy, screening, October, youth-ed, involved, allies, art, scheduled, prosecuted, building, coalition, justice, CFYJ, working, community-led, advocacy, readings, youth, relationships, youth justice, actions, local, country, YJAM Throughout the ages, solitary confinement has been used to punish criminals both youth and adult. Humans are by our very nature social creatures, and being thrown into seclusion can make a person go nuts and do a lot of psychological damage. While solitary confinement can damage anyone, it is especially damaging when done on youth.


New York is only one of two states that still tries 16 and 17 year olds as adults and puts 16 and 17 year olds in adult prisons. One such adult prison is Rikers Island near New York City. This prison is well known for being high security and very tough on its inmates. Recently, however, it has put in place a ban on solitary confinement for 16 and 17 year olds.


Adolescents are at a time in their lives when their brains are doing a lot of developing. Solitary confinement can mess if this development and alter the youth's brain for life. If the youth had a mental illness before, solitary confinement makes it worse. Not only has that, but being placed in solitary makes a youth more likely to commit violent acts.


The Prison Reform movement is working very hard to be sure youth in the adult criminal system are treated properly. Other new rules include youth not sharing cells with adults, and increased training of professionals who work with this age group.


YP!'s hope is that we will eventually live in a state where 16 and 17 year olds are not kept in adult prisons, and where seclusion in both juvenile and adult facilities is nonexistent. The Raise the Age and Eliminate Restraint and Seclusion campaigns are working toward this. Raise The Age's goal is to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, and is backed by the Raise the Age coalition. Eliminate Restraint and Seclusion is about removing these two practices from mental health facilities, schools, and juvenile and criminal justice facilities. Both campaigns will help end the suffering of youth at Rikers Island and other prisons. 

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
Elijah Fagan Solis

Bullying Hurts

October is the month in which schools and organizations throughout the country, and even one day during the month the entire world, stops to observe bullying prevention.  Bullying is a prevalent issue that is affecting youth of all ages and even adults in schools, workplaces, communities and their homes.  It includes repeated behaviors that are verbal (name calling, threats, teasing), graphic (written statements), psychological (social exclusion, extortion, spreading rumors), or physical (physical restraint, pushing, stealing, unwanted sexual touching) in nature.  The bullying that we read about in newspapers or see on national news broadcasts today isn't like the bullying of days past as now the millennial generation has a whole new platform allowing them to take bullying to a whole new level coining a whole new term: Cyberbullying.


Safebook Cyberbullying, defined by the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, is 'being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material using the internet or a cell phone."  This can include a personal web page, blog, email or instant message, text or image message via cell phone, and chat room discussions.  What makes cyberbullying unique is that sometimes bullying can be anonymous in nature, it provides the ability to reach mass audiences, it can cause others to feel less social pressure to intervene and can reach the target at anytime, anywhere; targets no longer have a safe haven within their own homes.  Social media unfortunately provides bullies with more ammo, with thicker skin and the ability to bully from a distance.


Studies have shown that children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be victims of bullying than peers without disabilities.  Often times youth with disabilities demonstrate behavioral, vocal or physical challenges that make them stand out and their peers, who lack understanding, misinterpret the behavior.  Bullying can also have a greater impact on a child with a disability as they are less likely to feel comfortable to stand up for themselves.

How can the internet and social media tools that we love and work with everyday cause so much damage to young people, especially those with disabilities? What can we do about this?  The goal of National Bullying Prevention month is to encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying; we can do this by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact on children of all ages.  We can no longer plead ignorance and dismiss Facebook and other social media platforms or ban our children from it because they will be on them anyhow.  We must protect our vulnerable children, learn and understand how these platforms work, discover the risks and teach our youth how to set up personal accounts properly.  Teach them to use privacy settings, to connect only with friends, to think about what they post before they post it, to deal with inappropriate behavior by reporting the bully to parents and teachers, saving what the person says and unfriending them, and setting a standing of not being hurtful toward others but being kind.


Bullying and discrimination should not be tolerated and victims deserve the highest level of respect and protection. Furthermore, bullies need youth-driven support and positive interventions. YOUTH POWER! calls on every person in New York State to address this important community problem. Make sure you do your part to spread awareness.

Apply for a Congressional Internship
Congressional Coalition on Adoption The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is accepting applications for the 2015 Foster Youth Internship (FYI) program!
Each summer, CCAI Foster Youth Interns spend 2 months in Washington, D.C. interning for a Member of Congress and writing a Congressional policy report. The internship is open to those who have graduated OR are currently enrolled in and have completed 4 semesters of college or trade school, have spent at least 24 consecutive months AND/OR 36 total months in the foster care system AND have a desire to use their voice on Capitol Hill. Additionally, interns receive a weekly stipend and housing during their assignment. The application deadline for this life-changing internship is Friday, January 9, 2015.  


For more information about the program and to access the application form click here
The views and opinions expressed in third party messages and external links included in this eNews are those of the organization or individual mentioned. They do not necessarily reflect the official positions of YOUTH POWER!.
YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Nothing About Us Without Us!

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