Letter from 2001 Graduate
... I thought about Partners very much this week, as I spent time in San Antonio at the U.S. Department of Education's (USDoED) conference named, "No Child Left Behind." I attended, since I wanted to assure that not only are our students with disabilities are not left behind, but that they are not totally left out.
I went to the USDoED's version of "Listen and Learn" sessions for the reauthorization of IDEA. There were few parents and many professional educators. The thing that made me feel most at ease was the fact that Partners, from other states, were there. We were talking the same talk. And there to walk the same walk. We even discussed building a Texas-Michigan parent coalition for the purpose of working together on the Reauthorization of IDEA.
In 2002-2003, we will be fighting a huge fight for this particular reauthorization of IDEA. ... Due process rights could be watered down significantly, if we don't all stand united, as the Partners we are, to assure that this doesn't happen. It will be a true test for of our united strengths and beliefs.
I am grateful each and every year to be a Partner (and often, each and every day of particular months), and this is the first time that I had the opportunity to witness the strength of Partners and our "partnership" at a Federal event that could have a profound impact on our students and Partners.
When people testified, they proudly announced in their opening introductions that they were Partners. It perked our ears up and we sought each other out after the testimonies were finished. We found each other. Strategized. Giggled. And some hugged, like we were long lost friends.
... Thank you to those of you that make Partners a reality. It is a comforting coalition, nationwide, and now I see how it works.
1998 Partners Graduation Remarks
- I will no longer be intimidated, insecure, unassuming, defenseless or alone. I do feel empowered.
- After attending the first session in September I left wondering if I really belong in Partners. I had no titles, no "real Job; was being Erin's mom enough? After the second session I KNEW why I was there. I have learned of the opportunities available for persons with disabilities, that they should have a choice and a voice in planning their future. That it is OKAY to dream big and ways to make this dream come true.
- I adamantly was against inclusion for my sons, who are severely impaired. I argued with Jill England on it and also wrote my homework against it for the second session. But lo and behold, I am now in the middle of meetings and planning sessions to include my older son in kindergarten next year. I have made a big change in seeing what I want for my kids. (Donna Miller)
- From Partners I've gained a strength and fortitude that I thought I had lost somewhere along life's journey. I've found - rekindled - a part of me -- to persevere and try harder and not take "no" for an answer. I've changed because I've decided that I want to have to say "I don't know".
- Because of Partners I see clearer (Shari Ballard-Krishnan)
- I felt so alone before with o one to talk to about the daily difficulties of life with my son. I've never had the opportunity to meet and become friends with anyone who has a disability. From Partners I have learned that people are people and on the personal level, the disabilities don't matter to me. The Partners with disabilities have shown me that they have dreams and hopes and feelings the same as everyone else. I thank you for giving me the gift of insight into your lives. (Stacy Miller)
Class of 1996-97 Testimony
- "I came to PARTNERS expecting to learn about how government works, how to establish relationships with legislators, and how to be an effective advocate. What I didn't expect was all that I have learned from the self-advocates about pride, independence, courage, strength, wisdom, persistence and people-first." (Suellen Hummell)
- "Partners is not just a training I went through but something that is a part of me."
- "Partners changed my attitude. I have new found hope."
- "Partners has given me the chance to grow as a person, parent and advocate. It has challenged me on every level as a human being. It has expanded my network of friends and contacts. This program has changed my life and given me the strength to look and strive for a better future."
- "Partners gave shape to the profound change in my life after my son was born. It allowed me a positive mission and a true vision." (L. Tamor)
Comments from 1996 Partner Graduates
- "I know so much more about my abilities and how I can use my skills effectively."
- "I feel I must encourage others to vote. I will get informed, involved and political, I will attend town halls, forums, etc. I will write more letters to politicians. I will make more personal contacts with politicians."
- "I am evolving into a much more effective and confident person and advocate as a result of my involvement with Partners."
- "I feel more empowered and better equipped to deal with those who will have an impact on my child and my family's life."
- I am encouraged that I will be able to chair meetings and become a better leader in my community."
- "This will help me insurmountably with dealing with elected officials."
- "I am motivated to become more involved in local politics."
- "I was inspired to dream and to plan how to make the dream real."
- "This is encouraging and helps us to understand that everyone is valuable and that everyone can contribute."