Community Connections | Spring eNewsletter

Making Community Connections

Stay connected. Those words mean so much now that the pandemic has made it more challenging to connect with others. Making Community Connections is a community engagement initiative that empowers you to raise disability culture awareness.

Ways YOU Can Get Involved

Together, giving is the way we build inclusive and welcoming communities. Join us as we come together to impact change, reduce structural and societal barriers, while we work to make our communities welcoming for people of all abilities.


Please consider fundraising on our behalf on your social media channels or send personal email messages to those within your circle of influence.


Disability Network supports a community of people with disabilities and their families. We have the tools and weekly online virtual events to support you during this challenging time. Share our events page with your friends and family.

Telling Our Stories

We are helping people with disabilities live self–directed lives in inclusive communities. We warmly welcome you to read online the shared stories from people we have worked with to help them reach their independent living goals.

We cannot do this important work without you. Every gift of donated funds or your time makes a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve. Please consider a donation to Disability Network or volunteer to be a change agent that enables people with disabilities to live fully–engaged lives. 

Ways to Keep Us Rolling
  • Mail your donation to 415 East Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686.
  • Make your donation online at
  • Arrange monthly payments from your bank.
We Care About You, Let’s Connect

Disability Network supports a community of people with disabilities and their families. We have the tools to support you during this challenging time.
Please visit for up-to-date information on our community’s response to COVID-19 and our weekly virtual online events.

Director’s Corner

Happy spring! We sometimes equate the season of spring with the time of youth in our lives. A time of newness and growth. At Disability Network we want all youth to have opportunities to grow towards realizing their hopes and dreams. The challenge for some youth with disabilities is a feeling of not fitting in, feeling different or being left out.
For youth with disabilities to successfully transition to adulthood it is important that they feel good about who they are in the world, to self-advocate and have the skills to lead a self-directed life, that is, to speak up and make one’s own decisions. The youth services and peer support opportunities at Disability Network work to help our youth with disabilities gain skills to be more comfortable and confident in their journey into adulthood. We also work with parents as they learn from each other on how best to support this journey. Inclusion is all about who gets to participate and play in life. At Disability Network we want everyone to play - no one is left out.

Jim Moore
Executive Director

Youth Empowerment

Self-advocacy is a critical tool needed to set and achieve goals, increase self-sufficiency and become a successful adult. It is a lifelong process that begins with a youth learning by watching parents, caregivers and others be a good example. Encouraging youth to participate in meetings and activities helps build skills.

It is important to practice these life skills by:

  • Learning about one’s own disability.
  • Gaining an understanding of one’s own strengths and needs.
  • Developing an ability to speak up for one’s self.
  • Learning how to ask for and accept help from others.
  • Practicing goal setting.
  • Participating in a process of resolving differences.

Self-advocacy is understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals, knowing your legal rights and responsibilities and communicating these to others. Being a good self-advocate helps you obtain what you need, make your own choices and express disagreements respectfully.

Parent Network

Disability Network’s Parent Network guides families with youth and adults with disabilities to the many supports available through healthcare and educational resources. We welcome you to virtually join us for our Parent Network Meetings the fourth Thursday of the month in April, May and June at 7:00 pm. Visit for details.

Let’s Connect

Connect with Parent Network Specialist Nicole Miller for details on how to participate in program offerings.
Nicole Miller, Parent Network Specialist - 231 922 0903 ext 318

Program Spotlight | Pre-Employment Services

Disability Network is thrilled to offer several new Pre-Employment Services for 2021. Services have been designed to allow for participants to join either virtually or in person as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Job Shadow

Virtual Job Shadow is a new and exciting offering that aims to allow consumers to begin the process of exploring career interests from the comfort of their own home.
The program can be offered in both group and individual settings and allows consumers to explore careers through ‘day in the life’ videos, summaries and assessments highlighting the skills needed to be successful in each position.
The online platform offers an educational and vocational training search tool to explore colleges and training programs in desired fields and social skills workshops. All sessions are facilitated by a Disability Network Independent Living Specialist.

Training in Educational and Vocational Options I 

This workshop series serves to introduce consumers to educational and vocational options post high school including apprenticeships, internships, 2-year and 4-year college programs and certificate or training programs. The workshop aims to broaden the participant’s knowledge of post-secondary options that may align with their career interests and future goals.
Topics include disability awareness, accessing disability resources, assistive technology, seeking out and advocating for accommodations and exploring financial aid options including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This program can be offered both virtually and in person and will include discussions with school, program staff, financial aid advisors and disability services where applicable. All sessions are facilitated by a Disability Network Independent Living Specialist.

Training in Educational and Vocational Options II

Training in Education and Vocational Options is a new program targeting students who are bound for college or vocational training programs post-high school. The workshop focuses on independent living skills as the student transitions from home to living on their own with the goal of developing stability necessary to maintain employment.
Topics include banking and budgeting, balancing daily living, cooking, maintaining an apartment, healthy lifestyle, community safety, recreation, developing and maintaining healthy relationships. All sessions are facilitated by a Disability Network Independent Living Specialist.

Summer Community LIFE Program

Disability Network’s Community Learning Independence From Experience program is a four or eight week summer intensive that works to improve students’ independence in the community and helps prepare them for employment. The program focuses on learning public transportation, community agencies, safety and navigation within the community, volunteer opportunities simulating employment, budgeting, comparison shopping, exploring housing options and developing daily living skills.
This program has successfully been offered in multiple communities around northern lower Michigan including Traverse City, Cadillac, Kalkaska, Petoskey, East Jordan and Alpena.

Let’s Connect

Connect with Independent Living Program Manager Cody Gascho for details on how to participate in Pre-Employment Services.
Cody Gascho, Independent Living Program Manager - 231 922 0903 ext. 325

Peer Support

Lea’s Story

Lea has a dream. She wants to be a model and actress. Lea lives in Traverse City and is supported by her parents Carrie and Tony. Carrie shared Lea’s dream at a Parent Network Meeting, talking about how Lea had gone to a local modeling event that did not result in a job for her. Lea and her parents are thrilled that she was able to reach her modeling dream and share her story. Read Lea’s story online at

Building Relationships

Peer support is one of the core services at Disability Network. Who better knows the issues that individuals face than another person with a disability. Peer mentors provide role modeling and share experiences, feelings and awareness of disability issues. We strive to support engagement and relationship building by connecting people. We welcome you to virtually join us for peer support and connection online at

Online Events

Accessible Gaming Social Groups
Women’s Group
Men’s Group
Peer Advocacy Group
Parent Network Meetings
Quarantine Cooking

Gaming Spotlight

by Peer Support Coordinator Andrew Kossek
There have been two real goals for the Peer Support program in these strange times; to maintain the best parts of the physically existing gaming groups and use the opportunities that can be grabbed from the many challenges of COVID-19 to try to incorporate the best parts of digital gaming.

I believe that we have succeeded. Members have had the space to grow, and the support to bring their favorite games to the group. We recently set up some fun programs on the gaming group’s Discord server to replicate the best parts of the physical group, that of letting members of the group take charge so that they can teach us all about the coolest parts of the games they love, while still being safe. The difference now is that all these opportunities are digital and socially distanced.

In this digital environment, members that would have had trouble with transport to and from Traverse City can join in the fun without any worries. When we are finally able to meet face-to-face again, the Peer Support program will be maintaining those digital strengths, so everyone can continue to enjoy this environment. This last year of the Peer Support program has been fantastic, even with the challenges of COVID-19, and I hope everyone enjoys year two!

Together We Give Thanks

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to promoting personal empowerment and positive social change for persons with disabilities. We simply could not do this without you!