Partners in PolicymakingPartners in Policymaking



South Dakota

"One of the graduates lived in a group home. After graduation, she purchased her own home."

"Partners attended a series of' town meetings around the state. The state agency staff wanted to know if' the coordinator had worked with one witness all day to prepare her. No, we didn't coach her. She's a Partners graduate."

"I was doing piecework at a sheltered workshop. I decided to go back to school to become a secretary. The difference was self esteem. Partners saved my life. I used to be on psychotropic medication. I started asking questions, decided to say no and took control of my life."

"Even though my advocacy efforts have been minimal, I will be forever grateful to Partners, contacts and friends I made will be forever with me"

"Partners gave me the information and encouragement I needed to achieve and do all the things I am doing today. Without their encouragement I probably would not be the Mayor of the city of Elk Point."

"Partners creates self-confidence."

"Partners has allowed me to speak up and helped my self-esteem. It allowed new people in my life."

"Partners gave me the extra confidence to assist me with advocating for children with special needs."

"I have learned to speak up for my kids' rights."

"It makes you feel better about yourself when you complete the program. It helped me to communicate with my family more."

"Partners changed my life. I used to be the mother from hell - - ready for battling with whomever to ensure my daughter received the supports she needed. Partners showed me how to be effective to create a win-win situation. It gave me the confidence I needed to show others the importance and impact of directing your own services."

"I believe I am where I am today (where I dreamed I'd never be) because of the marketing skills I gained from Partners."

"I knew I had abilities, Partners brought them out to the forefront."

"My experience with Partners is probably the best education I ever received and no one will be able to take that from me."

"The speakers really changed by life. They really made me think about my life in so many different ways."

"The knowledge and fellowship that my husband and I gained from our Partners training simply cannot be outdone."

"Partners helped me to realize that there is a wonderful community that we belong to - - fellow Partners who also are using their knowledge to make the world better for all of us!"

"Partners taught me how important it is for legislators to hear our needs and what we say can make a difference on how they vote."

"Watching the people in my class grow and gain more confidence in themselves was truly wonderful, as were the friendships formed."

"Partners woke up something inside of me. I realized in order to become a successful advocate for my child with a disability, I had to learn to advocate for myself and find the confidence to do that."

"Individuals with disabilities can teach us the basic beauty of life and what is really important. I am so thankful each and every day that my application to Partners in Policymaking was accepted."

I have recently finished reading a series of books about the fictional town of Mitford. The stories chronicle the lives of the residents of Mitford, season after season, year after year. What sounds boring is actually so delightful it is hard to stop reading. What makes it so enjoyable is the way that certain events in the stories can spark a personal memory for the reader. That happened to me several times over while reading these books! One story tells of the race for town mayor, it was a very close race. The incumbent used her campaign slogan time and again. The slogan was simple enough, and yet it holds a strong connection for anyone who ever has been in need of support. The slogan is "Mitford Takes Care of Its Own." When you couple such stories with the fact that I am about to watch my first-born son graduate from high school, you end up with a mother who really should have stock in a Kleenex company. Through this article, I want too share one particular insight I've had recently.

These days I am experiencing bittersweet emotion about the past 14 years. Along with the worries of final projects and graduation/reception details, there is also a great deal of pride at having reached this point in life with our son, Dillon. We haven't always known it would even be possible. When Dillon was about 5 years old, a quick mix of icy roads and a careless driver resulted in a car accident that has forever changed our family. Slowly we've pierced our lives back together. I remember how our gratefulness to have survived was tempered by the knowledge that from that moment on, Dillon would need lots of support in his life. Support from his friends and family, his "community." Many of my thoughts these days focus on our town. Now, I know Custer already has a catchy marketing theme, still ... if it ever needs another one ... the mayor of Mitford has a slogan that really wouldn't be a quantum leap.

This is an open note of gratitude to those people in our community who make up Dillon's community. I do not know where we would be without you! There is no way to ever repay a gift of the heart, yet we want to express our gratitude. If you have offered us any prayers or assistance these past years, then please accept our humble and heartfelt thanks. Know that you haven't just done a good deed — you have helped our family to feel some healing on a journey that has often seemed unbearable. We hope you know that in the scheme of things in this life, such acts cannot be outdone!

The years from the time of that traumatic event to now are so full of caring thoughts and gestures from those who make up our community, it would be simply impossible to list each one. If I were to attempt to chronicle all of the support we've received — season after season, year after year — would certainly need my own series of books! I will spare you that since my voice is not that of author. My voice is that of a mother — and a father — and two brothers.

There have been so many gifts of caring and fellowship, support with food and finances, heartfelt concern and shared wisdom … we have been the beneficiaries of gestures great and small. Bless the quiltmakers who have literally and figuratively helped us to put together the good parts. We feel so much gratitude for the help we have gotten along the way as we reach this graduation milestone. During the past 14 years, Dillon has found:

    • A school full of teachers, staff, and fellow students who have accepted him as he is and have helped and encouraged him to reach for his highest mark. There have been wonderful adult role models who have instilled a love for learning — all the while they helped him to feel good about who he is. The young people who have grown up with Dillon have given him many, many gifts. We cannot find words to even begin to express our thanks to each of them! Dillon's gift to them has been providing a jump-start on the insight need to grow into a compassionate adult.
    • A circle of friends of all ages who share his love for the beauty and history of the Black Hills. Dillon has spent many enjoyable hours discussing Custer State Park, Norbeck, and Badger. In fact, he himself has badgered several people into helping him research specific details about area history … right?! Each of you has helped him to bring the quality of his life from baby steps to running leaps! He is quick to tell folks why he loves living here. Thank you for helping him to realize that.
    • The one activity that he has used to define himself the last four years. Dillon chose to be the student manager for our boy's basketball team. Now, I was not on that bandwagon as it started to roll — I can remember the pain of feeling lost potential, I was thinking, "Dillon should be playing, not just taking water to the guys ... " It was Dillon who straightened me out on that issue. He was more passionate about games and trips to games than anything else in his life. This kid who had to many hard memories bout his surgeries and therapies would laugh hysterically about an incident on the bus. This kid who had lost much of his memory for details could tell me about every highlight of every game. I was humbled by the impact all of this basketball stuff had on him — and the impact that it had on everyone who knew him. Thank you to the men who guided him and "set the tone", and a hug to each of the teammates who helped him to grow up. A special thank you to the friend and teammate who left us way too soon.
    • A church family that has protected and nurtured our faith in life. Dillon wrote "find a Lutheran Church" on the top of his to-do list as he prepares for his college life in another town this fall. He is able to know what he will need in his post-high school life because of the things that have been important to him growing up. We know that this tall, skinny, Norwegian kid will represent us well — he is a believer because he has felt the faith of so many in his own life. Our church family has been with us every step of the way all of these years. Their kind words and deeds, and continued prayers, have sustained us.

I could go on and on, but I would guess that enough has been said in order to give you a glimpse of the caliber of my thoughts and memories these days. We thank each and every one of our neighbors who have helped to raise this young man — we acknowledge that it is something we could not have done without your help. We will be so proud when that cap and gown fly by next Sunday. We hope that you can relish your part in this accomplishment, too!