Lena Winslow, a 2011 Virginia Partners graduate, wanted to share not only her Partners experience and the benefits she received from the program, but how important it is for parents to have this information as early as possible when they first come to know of their child's disability, what a difference it can make in everyone's life.
"I have been an advocate for my son for the past ten years; now I know how to do it right!"
"Partners has given me a road map to follow which has enabled me to successfully navigate through the system. I finally feel like I am in control, I have been empowered."
"The skills learned in Partners are lifelong, and I am always going to need and use them. As a result of those skills, I successfully got my son into a summer parks and recreation program."
Dana Yarbrough, Class of 1997: "My daughter, Brooke, was just 2 years old when I participated in PIP. Brooke was born 11½ weeks premature and has multiple physical, intellectual, and sensory disabilities. When I participated in PIP, I set a vision for where Brooke would be in ten years but had not envisioned where I would be in ten years. Thanks to the advocacy skills I learned, I have had awesome opportunities to direct our state Parent to Parent office, coordinate projects at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at VCU, present at conferences all over the country, and participate on over ten local and state committees and task forces."
Mark Russell, Class of 1997: "As I became more involved in local volunteer efforts through my involvement as a parent, I needed the knowledge and confidence to become a more effective advocate in disability policy and community supports. Partners in Policymaking was exactly what I needed. After PIP, I switched careers to work in disability nonprofits, and I have never looked back."
Penny Altizer, Class of 1998: "I am the mother of a thirteen year old with cerebral palsy. Partners gave me the knowledge and strength to go to college to help others and make a difference. I have received three A.A.S. degrees, two B.S. degrees, and am working on my M.S. Degree in Counseling. I am on the Tazewell County Disability Services Board, and I work for Cumberland Mountain Community Service Board as a Mental Health Social Worker. If it had not been for Partners, I would have not set goals for myself, accomplished them and then went on to set new goals. I want to make a different in the lives of others."
Vicki Beatty, Class of 2002: "Partners changed my life. It gave me the information and ammunition I needed to go out and make a difference in the state. Partners opened up a new career for me. When I graduated from PIP, I made a proposal to the Infant and Toddler Connection of Richmond for a family representative position (not volunteer but paid). They accepted, and I currently work 24 hours a week helping families whose children age birth to three have a developmental delay. Ed Zeigler, Class of 2004: “I've always known that actions speak louder than words, and that's what Partners taught me, how to take action and not just complain, to make a difference. As a person with a disability, Partners made a difference in my life, and as a result I'm making a difference in the lives of others.”