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Save These Dates:
FTNYS Legislative Awareness Day
FTNYS Annual Conference with YP! Youth Track 
3rd Annual Foster Care and Children's Mental Health Celebration Luncheon
University of YOUTH POWER! 
Class of 2015: A New Generation of ADA Leaders
6/15/15 - 6/18/15

Visit our website for more information.


Call to Action: State Plan Public Meetings on Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment Services

The New York State Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services- Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), with the State Rehabilitation Council, is developing the State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment Services for Federal Fiscal Year 2016(beginning October 1, 2015). 


To assist in the development of the State Plan, individuals with disabilities, their families, advocates, employers and services providers are invited to attend the public meetings to provide comments on the provision of vocational rehabilitation services. The public comment period extends from January 26, 2015 through February 23, 2015. 


We are calling on all of our members to attend these important events. YOUR VOICE MATTERS!


YP! leaders will be attending all of the public meetings.  We intend to promote the importance of programs that build self-advocacy skills and self-determination. We will also share the importance of career focused peer-mentoring programs.

The first public meeting is in Albany this Thursday!


For more information and to view the schedule for these public forums visit:  


We hope to see YOUth there!

Fostering Youth Success Alliance Advocacy Day
The Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA, formerly Youth in Care Coalition) is advocating for a statewide higher education initiative for youth in foster care. This initiative calls for money to pay for tuition and other college expenses, in addition to increased social, emotional and academic supports on campuses to help foster youth stick with college.

FYSA and its partners will go to Albany on February 10, 2015 at 10am to make the case that foster youth deserve help going to college. A bus leaves Manhattan at 6:30 a.m. and Westchester at 7 a.m. 

 For more information
, to RSVP for the event and the bus, and to sign up for advocacy trainings that will get you ready to lobby your lawmakers visit:
Prepare For the Families Together Annual Conference
The FTNYS annual conference is full of exciting interactive opportunities including: educational workshops, an empowering keynote address, networking, a family dance, a popular auction, great exhibitors and wonderful food. This fun and empowering event only happens once a year!

This year's conference has something for everyone! 

The Youth Track, planned and delivered by the YOUTH POWER! network, offering workshops that are selected and delivered for and by young people to help build self-help and advocacy skills. The Youth Track is created for young people ages 12 - 25.

The Partner Track, designed for adults and youth to come together to unite and connect with each other, address topics that are of interest to both adults and youth, and make plans together to work together to improve the system.

The Family & Advocate Track, a great track for parents, caregivers, educators, staff and advocates. The Family & Advocate Track was developed based on what is important to you, the children and youth in your life, your family and your network.

The Leadership Track, created to address the needs of individuals who are in leadership roles and who work in the local, regional and statewide network.

We are currently accepting workshop proposals for the 2015 Conference. Presentations must be strength-based, innovative, informational, interactive, offer effective strategies to empower participants, and include a peer or family member (a youth with a social, emotional and/or behavioral challenge or a family member of a child or youth with a social, emotional or behavioral challenge). Presentations are 75 minutes long and should include 15 minutes for questions and answers. Printed handouts (for 50 people) must be included with your presentation.

Get more information regarding the Call for Presentations, or for registering, scholarships, sponsoring and exhibiting today!

Registration is open!
Major Progress for the Raise the Age Campaign
Governor Andrew Cuomo's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice released its final recommendations on how to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 in New York State. He has also announced his total and whole-hearted support of the recommendations and his plans to use them to draft a package of bills that he will pass down to the Assembly. 

The report:
The 176-page report details the state's rich history of juvenile justice leadership in New York, recounting that in the early 1900's we were the first of many states in the country to recognize that juveniles deserve different treatment under the law than adults and in the 1970's was one of the first states to lower it. More importantly, the report outlines a bold approach on how to reclaim that history and position New York to be a national leader once again.

Some key recommendations:
  • Under no circumstances can youth under the age 18 be held in adult jails and prisons.  
  • Raise the age that youth are treated as adults in criminal courts from age 16 to 18 over the next two years (to 17 in 2017 and 18 in 2018)
  • Shift all nonviolent 16 and 17-year-old offenders to family court jurisdiction. 
  • Create new youth courts to deal with criminal cases involving violent offenders younger than 18.
  • New youth court judges should have training in child development and the option to waive down youth to family-court jurisdiction at their discretion.   
  • Avoid costly incarceration, detention, and other out-of-home placements where there is no imminent threat to public safety. 
  • Utilize cost-effective, evidence-driven, community-based diversion and intervention programs.
  • Raise the minimum age that youth can be subject to the juvenile system from 7-years-old to 12-years-old.
  • For non-violent offenders age 18 through 21, records are sealed if they have no convictions for five years.

10 years Building YP!
by Stephanie Orlando

A collage of 4 pictures of stephanie over the past 10 years I was 22 when I was first hired as the Statewide Youth Coordinator of Families Together in New York State in January of 2005.  Today, ten years later, I am 32 and the Executive Director of YOUTH POWER!.  Building YP! has been a tremendously rewarding challenge.  I am honored to have shared the experience with so many dedicated leaders.


When I started working for FTNYS I had already had a few years in the youth and family movements under my belt. I along with several other young leaders had a vision for what the youth movement should look like in New York State.  We wanted to see a connected network of local youth groups each with their own identities. Together this youth-run network would share information and lessons learned, mobilize on common advocacy issues and empower each other through tough times. That vision has become a reality with YOUTH POWER!.


I am proud of the many accomplishments YP! has achieved. We grew from a small group of leaders to a network with over 400 currently engaged members.  We reach thousands of people each year.  We amplify the voices of marginalized youth so that their voices can be heard deep within the halls of government. We have even carried our Priority Agenda to a meeting with President Obama.


My term as a youth has ended while in leadership of YP!.  As an adult ally I share my years of experience with current young leaders.  With generations of the youth movement staying connected I believe we will achieve our motto of "Nothing About Us Without Us".  We know the importance of youth at the table. We have seen the impact.  Together, we will continue to open doors and push seats for youth up to the table.


YP!'s mission is a part of me. It runs through my veins and motivates me.  My deepest wish is to grow old on the sidelines of YP! watching generation after generation realizing their vision of the movement.


I hope you will celebrate my anniversary with me by doing something to amplify youth voice.


Slideshow of Stephanie over the past 10 years.

Regional Teams Are Recruiting!
in a region near YOUth YP! is currently looking for young people who want to make something happen for the youth movement in their region. Currently all YP! Regional Youth Partners (RYP) are recruiting for their regional teams. As a member of the regional team you get to plan your regional forums, lead regional campaigns and projects, connect with other young people and network youth groups across the state.

To join a regional Team you must be a YP! member. Membership Link

If you are interested please contact your Regional Youth Partner.

Hudson River: [email protected]
New York City: [email protected]
Long Island: [email protected]

If you are unsure of your region visit our website at this link.

Did You Know January is National Mentoring Month? 
RAMP Celebrates Entering Into It's 6th Year!
By: Elijah Fagan-Solis


 Locally, the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) in Albany County, NY will be kicking off year 6 after being partially refunded by the United States Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).  RAMP provides quality career focused mentoring for youth with disabilities who are involved with or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.  Youth in the program meet weekly with peers and mentors to explore career interests, learn about job options, engage in hands-on learning, participate in leadership opportunities, and take trips to area colleges, work sites, recreational events and more.


Research has shown that quality mentoring relationships can serve a powerful role in providing tools for young people to make responsible decisions, stay engaged in school and avoid risky behaviors such as truancy, drug use, and other negative activities regardless of race and backgrounds in rural, urban and suburban communities.  Additionally, self-assessment and goal setting aspects of RAMP help youth develop skills such as self-reliance, independence, and setting goals that transition into adult life.


On January 15th, National Thank a Mentor Day, YOUTH POWER!'s Mentoring Coordinator thanked and honored individuals who have and continue to serve as mentors for RAMP:   " We extend our most sincere gratitude for your willingness to encourage, guide, educate, and provide a lasting, positive impact on the lives of youth. RAMP wouldn't be what it is without you."


RAMP Mentoring has a profound impact on the youth involved as well as on the surrounding community.  If you are ready to give back and mentor one of many young people waiting for a mentor, contact Mentoring Coordinator Elijah Fagan-Solis at 518-432-0333 or at [email protected]


Click this link to view President Obama's proclamation declaring the month of January National Mentoring Month 


Discovering Civil Rights History in YP!
By Alex Frisina

Years and years of going to school, from Pre-K to College all I could think about was when will this all be over. When will I be able to stop learning and start doing! Well I have now been out of College for 5 years and I find myself hungrier for knowledge then I have ever been. I am exploring things I never had interest in, from cooking to agriculture to secret societies and art. Recently I stumbled onto a topic that not only taught me a lot, but raised some bigger questions.

 I was looking around on, when I decided to click the "resource" tab, and check out what it had to offer. I went to Disability History, simply because I was interested to know what type of information would be covered; what I found amazed me. I read over the Disability History Timeline offered on the NCLD Youth website. As I looked from year to year and saw all the changes that had taken place it opened my mind. I was shocked to realize I didn't have prior knowledge of most of these historic events. My mood quickly shifted from amused to slightly upset.


It sunk in, I didn't know any of this because I was never taught, but why was I never taught? Many of these events helped to shape the world as we know it today; this isn't just "Disability History" (which even if it was is just as important)  this is HISTORY, that should be taught alongside the likes of all other Civil Rights movements. Here I am going through life thinking, "wow luckily someone thought to put ramps on that building" not knowing people had to fight and hold protests for something I take for granted every day. I always felt we weren't taught enough about the Civil Rights movement, but now I come to find out we skipped a whole movement. I know I can't go back, but moving forward not only do I plan to learn more, I plan to make a push for these historic events to be placed into the American History curriculum. 

YP! is Hiring: Last Call for Applicants
YP! is currently seeking qualified and motivated applicants for the Network Assistant and Hudson River Regional Youth Partner positions.  

Interviews will begin in early Februaury. This is the last call for applicants!

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is Currently Seeking Young Adult Applicants for an Advisory Council!

 is looking to establish an advisory Council of young adults currently or formerly involved in the juvenile justice system to support the JJSG's juvenile justice reform efforts. The JJSG works with state and local juvenile justice stakeholders and agencies (such as


 probation departments, district

attorneys, judges, etc.) to improve outcomes for youth who become involved in the juvenile justice system by eliminating the inappropriate use of secure confinement including detention, state commitment, group homes, and other forms of out-of-home placement. JJSG's flagship initiative, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is currently in over 250 counties across the U.S. 


The Youth Advisory Council will work in partnership with the JJSG to inform and strengthen their site-based reform efforts with state and local juvenile justice systems, while supporting the development of Council members as emerging leaders in juvenile justice. JJSG is excited about this new initiative and is looking forward to building a partnership between the team at Casey and a group of youth advisors to advance juvenile justice reform efforts nationally.


Qualifications for Council Members
At a minimum, the ideal candidate should have the following experiences, skills, and qualities:

  • 18-25 years old, although younger candidates will be considered on an individual basis;
  • Previous or current juvenile justice involvement (e.g., probation, detention, commitment, residential placement, incarceration, and/or aftercare/parole);
  • Willingness to listen and learn;
  • Passionate about and committed to juvenile justice reform;
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills;

In addition, the ideal candidate may have some or all of the following experiences, skills, and qualities:

  • Previous or current experience in juvenile justice reform such as organizing, policy advocacy or development, program development, research, etc.;
  • Strong writing and public speaking skills;
  • Political astuteness;
  • Interpersonal skills;
  • Knowledge of JDAI or the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group's work.

Selection Process for Council Members
To apply, candidates must submit an application form, personal statement, and letters of recommendation to Jonathan Litt, CJJ's Policy & Field Relations Associate, at [email protected], fax to 202-887-0738, or mail to 1319 F Street NW, Suite 402, Washington, DC 20004. An application may also be submitted online.

Applications are due by Friday, February 13. Candidates may be selected for an interview during the review process. If a candidate is selected for an interview, the candidate will be contacted directly. Candidates who are interviewed will be notified of final decisions by early-March.

If you have questions regarding the Youth Advisory Council, you may contact Jonathan Litt at [email protected] or 202-467-0864 ext. 110; or Alexandra Frank, JJSG Program Assistant, at [email protected] or 410-547-3676.


For More Information Visit: 


Call for Applications: 2015 AAPD Summer Internship Program

Apply for the 2015 AAPD Summer Internship Program


If you will be living in the Washington, DC area during the 2015 summer and you're a college student, graduate student, law student, or recent graduate (within one year), AAPD's Summer Internship Program provides the opportunity to gain hands-on professional experience to help advance your career goals. Interns will receive a stipend, mentor matching, and additional resources during the summer. Candidates interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and veterans with disabilities are highly encouraged to apply.

Applications and information about the application process can be found on our website at:   


 All applications and supporting materials must be submitted by Feburary 6th.

The New York State Summer Young Writers Institute

The New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of Special Programs at Skidmore College is pleased to announce the 17th annual creative writing workshop for high school students. The New York State Summer Young Writers Institute (SYWI) will be held at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York from June 29 to July 11, 2015.


The New York State Summer Young Writers Institute is a thirteen-day in-residence writing workshop for high school students. Held during the months of June and July the workshop offers young writers artistic development, recognition and respect, and peer support. Students work closely with professional writers, immersing themselves in poetry, prose, creative nonfiction, and the critical evaluation of each other's work. Admission is limited and participation is determined by the evaluation of creative writing samples submitted as part of the application process. The SYWI is open to any high school student entering the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade in the fall of 2015. 


Workshop participants attend three instructional sessions per day - a ninety-minute workshop in the morning, and two hour-long workshops each afternoon. In addition, the young writers attend readings and presentations by the nationally-known writers who are part of the New York State Summer Writers Institute, which is held at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Work produced by each student during the Summer Young Writers Institute is published in an anthology.


Full and partial financial assistance based upon individual need is available to help offset the cost of tuition and room and board. The application deadline is April 1st.


For more information visit: or contact the Skidmore Office of the Dean of Special Programs at 518-580-5593.    

NYC Awards For Youth in Foster Care
New York City Youth Only
5 Grand Prizes of $1,000 each
10 Additional Prizes: $500 - $700

Youth Communication sponsors this award to promote a more positive image of New York City foster youth among agency staff, youth workers, and the general public. Fifteen young people will be awarded prize money at a ceremony on May 27, 2015. Five Grand Prize winners will receive $1,000 each, and 10 additional winners will receive prizes of $500 to $700 each. The prize money can be spent however the winner likes, although it is recommended that it be spent on education-related activities.

To be eligible you must write two essays. The first essay must be fewer than 1,000 words. The second essay must be fewer than 500 words. If your essays are too long it will count against you.

Find out more by visiting this link.
New Positive Youth Development Curriculum offered by 
ACT for Youth

Positive Youth Development 101: A Curriculum for YouthWork Professionals

Authored by Jutta Dotterweich, this brand new curriculum offers an orientation to the youth development approach for professionals just entering the field of youth work. Use this free curriculum to provide professional development to new youth workers, supervisors and administrators, funders, and community volunteers. The 10-hour curriculum is structured in five distinct sections, each of which may be presented as a stand-alone workshop. Topics include:

  • Positive Youth Development principles and theory
  • Positive Youth Outcomes
  • Youth Voice and Engagement
  • Youth Development Programming
  • Youth Worker Competencies

Rikers to Ban Isolation for Inmates 21 and Younger
By MICHAEL WINERIP and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ. The New York Times. January 13, 2015

New York City officials agreed on Tuesday to a plan that would eliminate the use of solitary confinement for all inmates 21 and younger, a move that would place the long-troubled Rikers Island complex at the forefront of national jail reform efforts.


The policy change was a stark turnaround by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, which recently eliminated the use of solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds but, backed by the powerful correction officers union, had resisted curtailing the practice more broadly.


Even the most innovative jails in the country punish disruptive inmates over age 18 with solitary confinement, said Christine Herrman, director of the Segregation Reduction Project at the Vera Institute of Justice. "I've never heard of anything like that happening anywhere else," she said, referring to the New York City plan. "It would definitely be an innovation."

The Correction Department has faced repeated criticism over the past year after revelations of horrific brutality and neglect of inmates at Rikers, the country's second-largest jail system. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, is suing the city over the treatment of adolescent inmates at the jail complex.


Jail reform advocates who have criticized the Correction Department for years praised the initiative. The New York Civil Liberties Union said the change would "make Rikers a leader in solitary confinement reform."


"With these reforms, New York City has taken an important stand for basic human rights and reaffirmed its commitment to the safety of prisoners, prison staff and our communities," said Donna Lieberman, the organization's director. "An institution as profoundly broken as Rikers Island will require wholesale reform to transform into a humane environment that emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation over punishment and isolation, and these rules are a major step forward."


Norman Seabrook, president of the 9,000-member correction officers' union, said the plan, which appeared to take him by surprise, would endanger correction officers, leading to more inmate attacks. He vowed to sue the board for every guard assaulted.

"I'm deeply, deeply bothered by a decision that you would make, jeopardizing the safety and security of inmates and officers," he told the board on Tuesday.


Union officials said they felt excluded from the discussions about solitary confinement.


"It's a blindside," said Sidney Schwartzbaum, who leads the union for assistant deputy wardens.


"Eighteen- to 21-year-olds are a very violent group," said Mr. Schwartzbaum, who added that he had not met with Mr. Ponte since mid-December. "If we can't secure them, violence is going to go on unabated. What do we do with a guy who slashes someone's throat?"


After years of wrangling between inmate advocates and city officials over solitary confinement, the agreement on Tuesday appeared to have been worked out in a private meeting between Mr. Ponte and Ms. Hamill. The two met on Monday morning at the behest of Mr. Ponte and spent 45 minutes developing the details of the initiative.


Along with the changes to solitary confinement, the new initiative allows the department to open a new 250-bed housing unit for the most violent inmates, known as enhanced supervision housing.


The unit will hold inmates with a history of violence, including those affiliated with gangs and who have assaulted officers or other inmates. They will be locked in their cells for 17 hours a day, rather than the standard 10 hours.


Effective immediately, the new rules will reduce the maximum amount of time inmates age 18 and older can be sentenced to solitary confinement to 30 days, from 90. The department also will eliminate so-called owed time. In the past, inmates who left Rikers before completing their stint in solitary confinement returned there if they went back to the jail.


"For years, New York City has locked people up without the provision of adequate programs and treatment to change their thinking and their behavior," Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. "We are pursuing evidence-based practices that will lead to a safer and more humane system."


Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ponte said he was confident he would be able to get the necessary resources from the city to put the plan in place next year. Ultimately, he said, getting young inmates out of solitary confinement will drive down violence.


"The idea we lock people up for any length of time and don't provide them with programs or treatments" does not lead to good outcomes, he said. "It seems to defy logic."

YOUth Decide: A Discussion on Transgender Bathrooms
By: Melanie Hecker

Transgender youth are some of the most discriminated  against youth out there. Being one gender biologically but  identifying as the other can be very difficult socially. One  area that both transgender youth and adults struggle with is  using gender-specific bathrooms and locker rooms. While  transgender people would prefer to use the bathroom of  the gender they identify with, others don't feel comfortable  with them doing so, particularly in schools. Schools all  around the country are holding meetings and debates to  decide if it is appropriate to allow transgender youth to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with.


Transgender youth have been pushing for their right to use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds to how they feel inside. These youth are not "faking it" nor is being transgender a choice. In addition, transgender youth can be bullied going into the bathroom.  Some transgender youth avoid the bathroom altogher, which can cause health problems. With all of the bullying and struggles these youth go through, many believe they deserve to be where they are most comfortable. Not allowing transgender youth to use the bathroom and locker room facilities they identify with can be considered discrimination, as on the inside the youth is that gender.


Despite many being in support of transgender youth being able to use the school bathroom they identify with many, especially parents, have concerns with it. They feel someone who is biologically a girl going into a boy's bathroom or vice versa will make other students uncomfortable. Outside of the school setting, parents fear that male pedophiles will take advantage of this allowance to go into women's rooms and molest girls.


Policy makers tend to take a side on this issue. Some states have passed legislation that people can use whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable in. Others have passed legislation saying people must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. What do you think: should transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom they identify with? Or do the cons outweigh the pros?


What do YOUth think?


Email [email protected] with facts and opinions about the issue.

Legislative Awareness Day Approaching: How Much Do You Really Know?
By: Melanie Hecker

In only one month, families and youth from all over the state will be attending Legislative Awareness Day. On March 3, 2015 these young people and their families will gather at Albany's Empire State Plaza to meet with legislators (with an appointment), give away awards, listen to speakers about important issues, and network and meet others. There are is a lot you can learn about the legislative process. Take this short quiz to see how much you know already! Answers are at the bottom.


1.    Which of the following is NOT a real position on the President's cabinet?

a.    Secretary of the Interior

b.    Secretary of Energy

c.    Secretary of Disability Affairs

d.    Secretary of Commerce


2.    When the Governor or President refuses to sign a bill and make it a law, it's called a:

a.    Refusalate

b.    Veto

c.    Pass

d.    Turndown


3. If the Governor or President does the above, what has to happen next for the bill to become a law?

a.     Congress must vote on the bill with a 2/3rd Majority

b.    The President/Governor must change his mind

c.    The Supreme Court must override the decision

d.    The Vice President/ Lieutenant Governor must make the decision


4.  A new governor is elected....

a.    Every 3 years

b.    Every 4 years

c.    Every 6 years

d.    Every 5 years



  1. C
  2. B
  3. A
  4. B
YP! Hopes to see YOU and YOUR Family at Legislative Awareness Day! For more information visit the Families Together in NYS website: 
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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