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New Hampshire Leadership Series

An overview of the leadership training program that New Hampshire offers, based on the Partners in Policymaking® program. (Run time 15:54)

- How I might describe Leadership is, like, boot camp for families or parents who have a child or a family member who experiences a disability.

- The whole series is so brilliantly set up in that it's layered for understanding.

- I've watched people come through the doors in September, and they were tentative and unsure of themselves, and by the time they graduated in April, they emerged as these articulate, confident leaders.

- Clearly, Leadership impacted the way I dealt with people.

- Before Leadership, I thought that I was going to a nursing home. But thanks to them, I am not.

- So I not only grew in my professional life and in my personal life, but I grew to become just me.

[inspirational music]

- What is Leadership?

- Leadership's 14 days, 7 nights.

- It's for families who have children with disabilities. It's for adults who experience disabilities. And it's for some professionals in the field.

- This whole series is about yourself, your community, and systems.

- I thought it was gonna be kind of like college, like a college class I had taken. And I get there, and it's, like, really different.

- I'm in a room with peers. Different levels of frustrations with what we're going through, but we are all in the same situation.

- Leadership makes you step back, and it makes you rethink everything you think you know.

- I think Leadership, they know this stuff when we sat down and what was gonna happen. And we all instantly had this bond.

- Session I: History.

- We begin at Laconia State School. We meet Freda Smith.

It's... wow.

- To find out that Laconia was open and people were being treated this way and I didn't know anything about it, I was very ashamed of that - of that ignorance.

- To realize where we had come from and, you know, understand more about why individuals have been segregated and isolated, I mean, that was just mind-blowing.

- Session II: Vision.

- My favorite session was second because it is about thinking outside of box.

- We brought in the most visionary, out-of-the-box thinker that I know, our good friend Jeff Strully.

- If you want to see Chantal as a person with significant disabilities, that is absolutely accurate. Absolutely accurate. If you want to see Chan as someone who owns a business, travels, has deep friendships, owns her own home, that's true too. The essence of this Leadership are two simple things: having a very clear, passionate, unbelievable vision and, two, figuring out strategies to get there.

- Session III: Community Organizing.

- The community organizing weekend really pushed me so far out of my comfort zone. Nobody had dug in and said, "You are not reaching your potential.""

"You have so much more. And what's getting in your way?"

- In that session, we're dared to think some different things. We're dared to dig a little deeper.

- If you want to make lasting change, you have to engage other people.

- Every two years, we get hundreds of people to come to the Legislative Office Building and to the State House and rally around budget issues.

- I organized my first rally, protest-type thing.

- Whoo-hoo!

- Because with organized people and organized money, that's what gives you the power to ensure that the things that your family members need can happen.

- Session IV: Education.

- And then all of a sudden, the education session comes, and families and individuals feel lost in this system, feeling that no matter what they do or no matter what they say, it's hard to effect change. So I think what the education session does is, it sets the standard that, don't compromise, work with, have that vision, keep that vision, that, yes, all means all - all kids in all environments in all schools and that it can happen.

- Across the state, we have parents on school boards, and just by their presence, they send out the message, "My child belongs. We are a part of this community."

- Session V: The Good Life.

- The good life session. It's like, you know, don't look at your kid like a liability or something that is weak or broken. You know, there are ways, if you create it, to find their niche, to contribute to society.

- Inclusion works. Inclusion matters. People with disabilities need as many allies as possible to get a good shot at a good life.

- And all of a sudden, you're hearing about, "Dream the dream." "Think outside the box." "Anything is possible." "Whatever you want for your life, whatever your dream is for your child or your family member, you can do it."

- I have my own apartment. I am going to school. I am like a regular 27-year-old. I am in "The Vagina Monologues."

[Upbeat music]

- Session VI: Legislative.

- It was kind of either learn the legislative process or perish.

- And you start to look beyond yourself, your family to the greater community, what needs to change in the laws, what needs to change in the budget, what needs to change in our systems. We hold that session right in the Legislative Office Building. So it kind of demystifies the place. And we have real meetings with real legislators.

- There are so many bills that go through the legislature each year. Not every legislator is - it's not possible for them to know everything about every bill. So it's really the public's responsibility to help educate them about what they are, how they impact families, because they're there to represent you.

- Action groups.

- What an action group is or what we're talking about is, is that we're asking individuals to bring together all the pieces of what they learned in Leadership, to come together as a group, to choose an action where they can effect change, and to actually do that.

- Part of being a leader is being able to work with diverse groups of people. So the action group project brings you together with a group of people who hopefully share the same passion around a topic that you do. And, really, that's what ends up making the action group project so important, because it - there's a role for everybody.

- Our agency, our council went through a difficult - very difficult, challenging fiscal time a few years back, and our council made the choice that the Leadership Series would - was to be the only major grant that we would give.

- Nearly 900 graduates strong, New Hampshire Leadership continues, creating change to better systems to better lives.

[Inspirational music]

- We are individuals with disabilities, we are parents and family members, we are friends who have for the past few years worked tirelessly and occasionally under very difficult circumstances. Our accomplishments are many, and our ways and means are diligent. We have organized rallies, legislative forums, letter-writing campaigns. We have made phone calls and sent unlimited emails. We have attended school board meetings and candidate forums. We have made numerous visits to Concord and dropped in on Senate and committee meetings and sometimes getting thrown out of those meetings. We are a force to be reckoned with, and when it comes to individuals and families and what is at stake for their futures, and all that we do is in an effort to make sure our voices are heard and that every citizen has an opportunity to live with dignity.

[Music continues]

- The New Hampshire Leadership Series, modeled after Minnesota's Partners in Policymaking, is a program of the UNH Institute on Disability, a University Center of Excellence in Disabilities.

For more information, please call 1-800-238-2048 or visit nhleadership.org.