Breaking Ground 92 - Partners 2018 Annual Reunion Conference

by Ned Andrew Solomon, Director of Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute, Council on Developmental Disabilities
large crowd of seated people, adults with and without disabilities, attending the Council's 2018 partners in policymaking reunion

It was a beautiful March weekend, as more than 130 folks gathered at the Franklin Cool Springs Marriott for the 2018 Partners Annual Reunion Conference.  With the 2017-18 Partners class serving as “hosts” for this event, attendees listened to a keynote by Derrick Dufresne about believing in yourself and not taking “no” for an answer; breakout sessions by Derrick (making a difference) and Partners grads, Jen Vogus (photography as a communication tool) and Brandi Brown (successful employment at UPS); a legislative overview and update by the Council’s Director of Public Policy, Lauren Pearcy and Executive Director Wanda Willis; a panel discussion on the Employment and Community First CHOICES (ECF) program; and an inspiring closing keynote about disability pride by Erica Powell.

We were also lucky to have Karen Mevis, Partners grad and Information & Referral Coordinator at Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, who conducted one-on-one scheduled meetings with individuals who sought help finding needed services and resources.

There was ample time for networking with new friends and old, and even dancing to a DJ, which brought people of all ages and abilities out on the floor.

The 2019 Annual Reunion Conference will take place March 15 & 16 at the Franklin Cool Spring Marriott. If you are a graduate, please save that date! If you are not a Partner yet, then get with the program! But don’t just take my word for it – read what the Reunion attendees had to say:

“There are times as a disabled person I am home making phone calls and writing letters and it feel like I am the only one doing anything. Then I come to Partners and it feels like a family reunion. I’m reminded I’m not alone.”
“I always look forward to the Reunion as a means to reconnect with fellow self-advocates and recharge my advocacy batteries.”
“I had become very frustrated with my own community and lack of progress on disability access, services, rights. This Reunion has been very motivational and I feel a renewed sense of purpose and energy. I am more motivated now to go back home and get back to work.”