Over 300 high school students with disabilities participated in the regional LIFE Student Transition Conference on December 10, 2013 at the Grand Traverse Resort. Youth from 17 schools gathered to hear key note speaker, Anthony Ianni, share his experience living with Autism. "Don't ever quit or give up on yourself or your school work. I struggled a lot in school, but worked hard to get my degrees from Okemos High School and Michigan State University," he said. Anthony encouraged the local students to be self-advocates and ask for help when they need it. "If things are hard, just remember that there's always somebody there to help you," he explained.
In addition to hearing the key note, LIFE students attended various breakout sessions throughout the morning to learn life skills. Topics included: self-advocacy, communication, health & nutrition, banking, how to handle bullies, job skills, the process of buying a car, how to apply & get accommodations in college, and stress management. “The most important thing I learned at the LIFE Conference is to never be afraid to speak up for myself,” stated Nathan, who participated in the event.
"The goal of the LIFE Transition Conference is to help local students with disabilities prepare for life after high school," informed Jessie Bachmann, Program Manager at Disability Network. "The event is important because it provides a hands-on learning experience for our youth, while offering the opportunity for our students to build relationships with people in our community who genuinely care about their future."
Presenters included: Jennifer Taylor from TBA Credit Union, Ben Zork from Weathered Beard, Kim Smith & Brenda Majestic from Northwestern Bank, Tim Collins from State Farm Insurance, Brad Giglio from Fit for You, Amanda (Rodasi) Campbell, Debbie Caperton from Reigning Liberty Ranch, Trooper Greg Hubers from Michigan State Police, Leanne Baumeler & Melissa Jelinek from Northwestern Michigan College, Michelle Smith from MSU Extension, Caiti Anthony & Norm Bowbeer from Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, and Anthony Ianni from Autism Alliance of Michigan.
In addition, employees from Michigan Works, Traverse Bay Intermediate School District, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and several community members volunteered at the event. American Sign Language interpreting services were provided by Tom Hoxsie from LIS'N. "The LIFE Conference was a huge success thanks to our volunteers. Disability Network expresses deep gratitude to all of the businesses, agencies, and individuals who volunteered their time to connect with our students. We would not be able to provide this engaging learning opportunity without their help," said Annie Campbell, who coordinated the event.
Disability Network hosts two conferences during the school year for high school special education students participating in the LIFE Program—one in the fall semester that focuses on various aspects of transition, and one in the spring that focuses on employment. Students are invited to attend both events in preparation for life after high school. Funding for the program is provided through a partnership between Traverse Bay Intermediate School District, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and Disability Network Northern Michigan. For more information about LIFE, or to learn how you can get involved, contact Jessie Bachmann at 231.922.0903, ext. 13.
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