Fare Thee Well, Summer. Hello Fall! ECNV’s I Am Self-Advocacy Program

By Hannah Roberts, Director of Programs

This past summer, we decided to roll out the I Am Self-Advocacy Program in a refreshing, new way. As opposed to discussions of advocacy-related topics spread throughout 8 weeks, students in the Summer Session participated in a fast-paced and condensed version of the program spanning the whole month of July.

One change that the Summer Session was able to offer was the installment of Leadership Fridays, where the students had the option to participate in-person at ECNV’s new office location in National Landing. Whether participating in-person or virtually, students had the opportunity to meet other students, listen to speakers, and learn more about self-advocacy through peer discussions and activities.

The I Am Self-Advocacy Program is a Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS) program focused on helping students with disabilities, ages 16-22, learn about and hone their skills in self-advocacy. Participants discuss a range of topics such as self-awareness, disability awareness, self-determination, disability rights and responsibilities, how to be assertive, and how to engage allies and be an ally to others.

This program assists students in not only exploring their abilities, but also discovering their power to create change and use their voice. Throughout the program, students work on a self-advocacy portfolio that they can keep in their toolbox and refer to if they need. During the last week of the program, the students present their portfolios in front of their peers. After completing the Summer Session program, one student reflected, “People had interesting portfolios. It was fun learning about what people wanted to do with their futures.”

Our Fall Session will begin September 26th and end December 2nd, with a week-long break for the Thanksgiving holiday. During the program, participants will meet virtually with a peer mentor once/week to discuss program topics and as well as on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays (4:15pm – 6:15pm) in a virtual group setting with their peers to learn from one another and build upon what they’ve discussed during the week in their individual sessions.

During these group sessions, students can meet other students, delve deeper into the program topics, bounce ideas off one another, and discuss shared experiences and perspectives. As one student put it, “I felt engaged…I found several people with interests similar to mine. And one person had exactly the same interests as me.”

Students interested in participating should talk to their special education teacher or Employment and Transition Representative (ETR) at their school for assistance. Alternatively, they can reach out to their local DARS office to get started. The referral deadline is September 16th. All referrals must come from DARS.

For more information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator, Hannah Roberts at hannahr@ecnv.org or call ECNV’s office number at 703-525-3268.