Partners in PolicymakingPartners in Policymaking



North Dakota

I became involved with Partners because I needed to know how to help my son obtain and education in an inclusive setting in the public school in our town.

When I started Partners I was an emotional wreck. Thanks to Partners that has changed.

As the year progressed my focus was not only for my son. I could no longer be complacent about other injustice and prejudice that affect so many other people. I have more knowledge hence more responsibility to educate others and to help remove antiquated ideas people have about disabilities, racial and ethnic prejudices.

I also was taught the importance of having a dream for myself as well as my son.

Jez will be successful in school, choose a career and obtain the education he will need for that career, find his perfect mate, have happy, healthy children, and be a wonderful friend, neighbor, and citizen.

The knowledge I've received, the confidence I feel and the new vision and dream I have for my son and myself and our family may not have been possible without what I learned through Partners in Policy Making. The program has made a huge impact on my life.

Partners in Policymaking has been beneficial for myself and for my daughter's well being. This program has improved and expanded my knowledge in understanding their procedures of IEP's. With this knowledge my daughter is able to go to Kindergarten. I now have more control in my daughter's future education and make sure her needs are met.

The program has showed me valuable resources to search for improvements for my daughter and I can be a voice in the legislative process so that there can be improvements for all people with disabilities.

As a 2001 graduate of this program, I can honestly say it is one of the best training programs I have ever taken.

As a professional, I took many classes and workshops to help people with disabilities find and keep employment, develop independent living skills, and help people with disabilities have equal access. None of these classes prepared me to advocate for my own child with a disability. This is where Partners came in.

It is a distinct honor to be a graduate of this program.

My son was totally isolated and didn't like school. Because of Partners, my son is the model of inclusion; he is happier and has more friends than I dreamed possible.

I received valuable information and inspiration needed to advocate for all people with disabilities.

The equivalent of a master's degree in disability and advocacy. Partners has challenged my perceptions and given me a clearer sense of direction.

I now feel differently about my child; it doesn't matter to me that he has a disability. I look at him as equal to others.

Thank you for the knowledge, experience, "fire," and compassion.

When I came to Partners, my daughter's education program was a mess. I could not understand why she didn't like school. After a few sessions, I learned how my daughter probably felt. I then learned what to do and how to do it. Partners has been the clear road to my daughter's success and happiness.

August 26, 1998

I am a parent of a person with a disability and have worked with people with developmental disabilities for the past seven years.

In October 1997, I went to my first of eight monthly training sessions of Partners in Policymaking. What I thought was going to be a nice little weekend-workshop, with all expenses paid, turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

Partners in Policymaking helped me fond my voice and showed me how to use that a voice for the good of the people I care about most. Training sessions focused on educating me so that I can advocate effectively, not only for my child, but for the inclusion and equality of all.

This experience has changed me from the inside out. The knowledge I gained and the strong bonds of friendships I formed in Partners is invaluable to me. It is truly a life-changing experience.

I thoroughly support Partners in Policymaking. I believe, too, that as more and more parents and self advocates have the privilege of attending these training sessions, they will also become empowered so that changes can be made to enhance the lives of people at all levels of abilities. Then not only our communities, but society as a whole, will reap the benefits.


Ardeen Belile Brenneise

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to express my appreciation for the opportunity to be a participant in ND Partners in Policymaking.

One of the most difficult things about having a child with a disability is the isolation you experience. Partners gave me the chance to connect with others who share my experiences and concerns. Without them, I am a lone voice, difficult to hear. Together, our voice is strong, and we can advocate for changes in the systems that serve us.

Before Partners, I didn't know any self-advocates. I was afraid of them: afraid I would be embarrassed by communication difficulties, afraid I might offend or fail, and afraid of the unknown. Partners has freed me from my fears by replacing fear with knowledge. This is what inclusion is all about!

Partners has given me the courage and tools I need to provide a better life for my son. Unfortunately, at this time, that doesn't mean he will be included at his local school, but it does mean he will not be in a separate classroom for the "seriously emotionally disturbed". While he studies at home, I continue to work for change in our local school district. I am Vice-Chair of the Family-Educator Enhancement Team with a budget of $5,000 per year, and I write and publish our quarterly newsletter which is distributed to the teaching staff in our local school district as well as parents of children who receive special services. I truly have a voice!

Thank you for the opportunity to change my life. You have made a difference!


Jean King

Sometimes in our lives things happen to open our eyes. We are able to see farther and focus better then we ever did before!


Partners: Like a dream. The kind of dream you hope will never end. A dream that leaves you feeling fulfilled, strong and energy driven. A dream of hope and of sharing…a sharing of love and praise and thoughts and ideas. Hopes of a brighter future and changes in a society that seems to have run amuck on certain areas of concern: such as health care, education, acceptance, inclusion and brotherly love.

Partners: An opportunity I could not pass by and one that will forever be embedded in my mind. I will without end be in awe of the wonderful beautiful people, and the creative thinkers and doers I was so fortunate to be in the presence of. I have made some amazing friends. Open arms and heartfelt conversation gave way to warm embrace and a sharing and caring of life in our own worlds. Profound similarities in our quest for a quieter more peaceful world came to surface and so our work began.

Partners: A symbol of harmony and a celebration of equality. Visions and goals and thoughts of great social change, desperately seeking to capture their force and explore and feel and experience and then release to the wind like a dove from a cage. A wind with such force and might that the whole world would bow to its power and hold hands and join arms and feel the strength that comes from strong conviction. A wind that would wisp away tyrants of prejudice, stigma, exclusion, narrow mindedness, intolerance, bigotry and injustice. A wind that would gather force as it tripped across boundaries and borders of discontent and would eventually come to rest around the fact that serenity is born of acceptance.

There comes a time when we need to stop whining and blaming others for the things they did or did not do to us.

There comes a time to learn that the only thing you can really expect is the unexpected.

There comes a time to learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say but no matter…it is not always about you or me!

There comes a time when we need to stand on our own two feet and take care of ourselves and in the process a sense of safety and self-assurance will be born of our independence.

There comes a time to learn that in order to achieve peace and contentment there must be pardon and absolution, there must be no judging, pointing of fingers or blaming or shaming.

There comes a time to have another look at who we are and reclassify what we stand for.

There comes a time to learn to go with your instincts and that a great part of life is a self fulfilling prophecy.

There comes a time to learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for.

There comes a time to realize that in order to accomplish our successes we need regulation, a path and determination.

There comes a time to realize that it is OK if you feel you cannot go it alone. If asking for help is a risk for you…take the risk…ask for help! Someone will be there for you.

Let us strive to be the masters of our own destiny! Let us open up to the world the gifts that are only ours and bestow them like a present wrapped in stunning paper! Let our breath be part of the great wind. Let us reach for those that are fearful. Let us lead those that are blinded by iniquities, and offer sign to those that lay on deaf ear. Let us remember the value of human life. Let us remember the value of vigilance and kindness, and the need for compassion, pity and understanding. Let us practice these in our everyday lives and in our own small kingdoms. Let us choose our heroes by those that have created their own freedom. Let us not place blame on society but step forward to liberate ourselves. We only have one life to live and if in living ours we make a difference in but one life, ours shall not have been in vain!

Blow with the wind my friend, walk out into the world and sing your song! Carry your banner high with courage and fortitude! Live in your strength! Do not escape yourself but find yourself! Do not degrade but assert yourself! Shout truth! Drum equality! Sing peace! And remember, "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito!" (Anita Roddick) Unimportant, trivial, slight and insignificant do NOT describe us! Compelling, effective, eloquent and strong best describe the energy and empowerment we have obtained by being part of the great American workshop: Partners in Policymaking!

It does not all have to be a dream. Go out and make it a reality!

Deborah Jendro
Graduate, 2006
Partners in Policymaking