EmpowHer Camp Participants
In July 2022, our first EmpowHer Camp class completed the program and officially graduated from EmpowHer Camp. Check out where they are now in their journey!
Abby has continued to be involved with EmpowHer Roc, our Rochester-local group for disabled young women. In February 2023, Abby was interviewed and featured alongside our team on Connections with Evan Dawson, a WXXI radio show. You can listen to the interview here.
Anja describes herself as ‘driven’ because she sets goals and then does what it takes to accomplish them. Anja has been busy since starting her EmpowHer Camp journey. On top of recently becoming research assistant at UIC, she is finishing up her EmpowHer Camp project which is to write a white paper collecting qualitative and potentially quantitative data from students with disabilities and teachers on how prepared they are and if they have a plan in case of a school shooting. This is phase one in her long term goal to pass a law requiring all students with 504s and/or IEPs to have individualized plans in case of a school shooting. During the year long EmpowHer Camp Journey she learned that community is imperative to success. She is incredibly proud of her freelance writing career and being the primary division winner of the 2019 VSA Playwriting Discovery Contest. Along with writing, advocacy, public speaking, legislative policy, and biomedical are areas she is passionate about. ‘Such Great Heights’ and ‘Lady Madonna’ are her favorite tunes of choice at the moment.
Hannah is moving into the summer to the tune of SUPERBLOOM by Mister Wives. She loves how it talks about congratulating yourself for things. She is proud of almost completing an incredible internship with people from around the world, and she enjoyed being able to help make curriculum. She would describe herself as ‘fierce’ because she is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She has been working on her year-long project to make sure that emergency guides and information is updated to include people with service animals and make sure that they are helped in an emergency. Since HER EmpowHer Camp journey has begun she has learned to be a better listener and to believe in change even when most people don’t understand the problem. Since camp she has also added modeling to the list of achievements and new hobbies. “It was amazing to be providing more disability representation in the modeling world.”
One word Kimi would describe herself as is ‘proud’. “Since the start of EmpowHer Camp I learned how to be proud of my disability. I've learned to not be ashamed to ask for what I need”. For her year-long project she wrote a story about an Autistic girl and how she prepares for a flood including open-ended questions so others reading it can fill in what they would need to do in case of a flood. She is extremely proud that she got an article published in a magazine about her project. Her life recently has also consisted of school, special Olympic cycling, and family vacations. She really enjoys reading fan fiction books and creating them in her head. Her favorite song is ‘Trust in Me’ by Scarlet Johansson from the Jungle Book.
Lily has been working on her project about adding accessible bus rest stops in her community since the Adirondacks camping trip. Things she has learned during the year long EmpowHer Camp journey include that we all have internalized ableism and we need to confront it rather than ignore it, as well as to join the party rather than talk about the party. She describes herself as ‘Italian’, she quotes “Italian women don’t settle unless they get what they need. Italians are loud, and don’t go without a fight” and she takes pride in those attributes. She has used this ‘Italian determination’ and skills she learned to run for class representative to make sure she can speak with and advocate for other people and get stuff done. When she is not working she enjoys playing video games, poetry, and English class. She is proud of the bond she has developed with her siblings and can't imagine life without them. She really relates to the melody of ‘29’ by Run River North.
“One word to describe myself would be “resilient” because I have pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and took on not only school, but the project and another job as a brand ambassador.” Her EmpowHer Camp project is to bring awareness of the issue of food insecurity to everyone, including people in the Disability Community. Since the start of EmpowHer Camp last year she learned better advocacy skills for herself and she has been improving her planning and organization skills. She is proud to have met Rep. Jennifer Longdon at the Arizona House of Representatives and to have led the pledge of allegiance with her good friend Kailani. Her other loves include art, video games, and tennis. She has also recently taken up woodworking and wood burning. A song that I feel represents me is “Can’t Hold Us” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Ray Dalton). Lastly she is looking forward to returning to camp next year as a Mentor in Training.
Mia describes herself as ‘determined’ because she worked through the difficult parts this year of completing her project and got it done. She is extremely proud of completing her EmpowHer Camp project because she knows it will help someone one day. Her project was to create an accessible evacuation and access plan for a domestic violence homeless shelter in the event of a natural disaster. Since camp she has learned a little more on how to talk to people so she doesn’t feel so shy all the time. This past year she has been focusing more on her goals like getting a part time job and learning to drive. She has also acquired as a new hobby and started vibing the the song ‘The Nights’ by Avicii because it reminds her of the fun times with her family. She also loves her two dogs, Izzy and Tempe, and her favorite animal is monkeys.
Opal's yearlong long project was to create a disaster preparedness resource guide for her community so that people with disabilities can have their needs met and know what to expect during an emergency. Since camping last year, “I have learned a lot about disaster prep, but I have also learned to be more patient with myself”. This year has been a busy one, she has been doing a lot of disability and mental health advocacy work and participated in five school plays. On top of that she has graduated high school with perfect grades. One word she would use to describe herself is ‘positive’. She is proud to be the student representative for the Special Ed Advisory Panel for the Office of Public Instruction. She is blazing through life to the tunes of ‘Time of Your Life’ by Green Day and ‘Classic’ by MKTO.
Riley is living life to the tune of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take it’- Twisted Sister. With this energy she has been very busy since last year. She has started college classes through her high school's early college program and focused on her career goals. “I have been doing a lot of career exploration in the engineering field and working on developing as many engineering and public health connections as possible.” During the EmpowHer Camp journey she has learned how to set boundaries and exhibit her self-confidence. She is proud of her project, which is a Core Advisory Group dedicated to connecting disability with local emergency management that she aims to continue in the future. Not only has she been working hard, she has really bonded with her mentor, Jill, who has got her hooked on The Sims. She believes she is living up to her name which means ‘valiant’ because she has learned from life experiences and uses her knowledge to benefit others.