Breaking Ground 94 - Council and Empower TN Collaborate on Youth Leadership Academy 2018

by Ned Andrew Solomon, Director of Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute
a group photo of about 10 young adults with various types of visible and invisible disabilities, and several adults with and without disabilities who helped lead the youth leadership program that the article will describe
2018 Empower TN and TN Council on Developmental Disabilities Youth Leadership Academy

This past June, 10 youth with disabilities were selected to participate in the 2018 Youth Leadership Academy. The two-day training was facilitated by staff from the Council and Empower TN, Middle Tennessee’s Center for Independent Living.

This was a great opportunity for youth to learn some skills, or build on the ones they already had. They attended sessions on self-advocacy (Finding My Empowered Voice); life after high school (My Life, My Choice); problem-solving (Wait – I Know How To Do That!); independent living (You Have Rights) disability pride (I Am Who I Am) and assistive technology. Several of these were not your typical PowerPoint presentations, but informal “conversations” where the youth participants and the adult mentors shared the challenges and successes in different aspects of their lives.

The event took place in two locations: Second Presbyterian Church on Wednesday and the Frist Art Museum on Thursday. Near the end of the second day, youth were “let loose” to explore the Frist’s numerous art exhibits and experiences, which made for lots of fun and some fantastic photos!

We want to congratulate the following youth leaders for taking part in this learning and networking experience:

  • Tradell Brockman, Murfreesboro
  • Sarah Carson, Hendersonville
  • Tom Curl, Franklin
  • Isabella Forrester-Kent, Nashville
  • Fernina Lopez, Clarksville
  • Gillian Lynette, Brentwood
  • Sean Mevis, Kingston Springs
  • Joshua Riley, Brentwood
  • Kaitlyn “Lexi” Shelnutt, Decherd
  • Jaydon Sullenger, Tullahoma

Here’s the really good news: both the Council and Empower TN are on board to host the second Youth Leadership Academy in Middle Tennessee in summer 2019, which will be the third Academy after the initial program was held in Paris in 2017 in partnership with T.A.R.P., the Center for Independent Living for that area. For more information, please contact Ned Andrew Solomon, at 615.532.6556 or