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Partners in Policymaking
Shanel Kube, Loretta Sierra and Megan Waltner applied to attend Partners in Policymaking and all three were chosen to take part in this educational opportunity. Partners in Policymaking is a national program that provides an innovative leadership and advocacy training opportunity designed to involve and empower people with intellectual disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and other family members. This is the 26th Partners in Policymaking class in South Dakota. Each participant attends classes over six weekends from November through April. Classes range in topics from history of disability services, person first language, self defense skills, how to testify for legislation, how to speak up for what you want and how to share your story with local leaders to promote changes. Each session includes homework exercises that the participants complete after returning home and then share with the group at the next session. All three ladies have gained very valuable knowledge during this process that will assist them in their daily lives. They participated in a graduation ceremony in April, which included networking with graduates of all the past Partners in Policymaking classes.
Loretta shares her experiences with self-advocacy:
My name is Loretta and I am Lakota. I was born in Nebraska and did not have a very good life. I was abused as a child and ended up living in several foster homes. When I was a teenager, I got pregnant while living in a foster home. While I was pregnant, my mother passed away and it was very hard for me. The social workers put me in HSC (the state hospital in Yankton). Later they moved me to Sioux Falls to Thresholds. This was a place for pregnant teenagers. My oldest son was born there. Over the years, I had many more stays at HSC. I also had two more sons. I drank a lot and made bad decisions. After a while, I ended up at SDDC in Redfield. I spent 6 years there with no real relationships. They helped me to get sober and make healthy decisions. I did what I was told there, because I wanted to get out. Two years ago, I moved to Yankton and started getting support from ABS. I enjoy it here and they help me a lot. I live in an apartment. I have a job working at Hillcrest Golf Course. I became my own guardian. I go shopping, swimming, play sports, go to plays and anything else I want to do. It is important to me to make my own choices and know they are positive choices. I want to be a role model for other people and show them that they can make good choices too. I want to show people that they can do it. To teach them that you can work your way out of there. Being in Partners in Policymaking has helped me to speak up for myself. I have learned how to share my story to make a difference. It helps me to listen and understand that I am not alone and that other people have been through bad things too.