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Colby’s Crossroads…99 Blogs Later

Two and a half years ago I began writing blogs for Community Crossroads. In my first blog, I wrote about my diagnosis of CHARGE syndrome, my passion for writing, and some of my biggest accomplishments such as graduating from Keene State College. 

Now, in December 2021, I can confidently say that I know more about advocacy, accessibility, and inclusion than ever before. Speaking to Direct Support Professionals, Home Care Providers, and parents have helped me view advocacy in new ways. Research about universal design, adaptive and unified sports, and playgrounds have allowed me to better understand accessibility. Many of my conversations and research throughout the past 2.5 years have led me to thinking about inclusion – but none more than my research for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a story that highlights the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities in America, and the many benefits of hiring someone who has a disability. 

Since the summer of 2019 – I have helped create a Community Report that details the work our organization does, I created a weekly newsletter at the beginning of the pandemic that ran through the spring, summer, and fall of 2020, and built #WhatsTrending, a page on our website that I have updated monthly throughout 2021 about the happenings at our area agency and beyond. Along with these accomplishments, I have updated our organization’s social media page and sat on committees for the Golf Challenge and Kids Carnival. 

This is my 100th blog for Community Crossroads!! With this being my 100th blog, I thought it would be fun to update you all on something I have been a part of since September of this year — the New Hampshire Leadership Series!

The New Hampshire Leadership Series & Other Career Achievements

Since I began working at Community Crossroads, I have heard about the NH Leadership Series and the ways it could benefit one both personally and professionally. In September, my journey through Leadership began. In the first session, I learned more about the history of disability in our state. While I had seen the Lost in Laconia documentary before – it is always a hard-hitting reminder of what our history looked like, and what could happen again without strong advocates who are always constantly promoting inclusion and accessibility.

During the ‘Creating a Vision’ portion of Leadership, we heard from Therese Willkomm, Clinical Associate Professor at UNH about creating assistive technology, Regan Lamphier, who is on the Nashua school board, and others who shared how they were able to take a vision or idea and use their strengths to become leaders and advocates. These sessions helped me realize how powerful my strengths (writing and marketing) could be when it comes to accomplishing my goals. I look forward to utilizing my strengths to help make a difference when it comes to issues that relate to disability. 

The third session is ‘Community Organizing’ and focuses on how one person (or a group of people) can influence decision-makers and create change in our society. One major part of Leadership is ‘Action Groups’ which consist of 5-7 people in our class who meet regularly to take action on a specific issue relating to disability. Four others in the class and I will be focusing on ‘Oral Health’ – a topic that I can relate to. I have had multiple surgeries on my mouth throughout the years. These operations have allowed me to chew and breathe better and have improved my appearance and confidence. I also wore braces for many years and have been to countless orthodontist and dentist appointments. I look forward to using my own experience – and listening to stories from others, so we can make change happen in NH. 

Oral healthcare has been a major point of discussion at the NH State House in recent years. According to New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR), preventative oral healthcare is not covered by Medicaid – only emergency dental benefits. Our state is one of 10 in the country where Medicaid doesn’t cover basic dental care. The most common reason this has been rejected is due to the high cost. I look forward to further researching this topic – and showcasing how preventative dental healthcare is less expensive in the long run than emergency hospital visits and painful tooth extractions that could have been avoided. 

The NH Leadership Series has also allowed me to hear stories from a wide range of perspectives. Whether one has a disability themselves, has a child, sibling, neighbor, spouse, or friend with a disability – or their career led them to Leadership, it has been interesting to hear everyone’s story! While I am in the middle of Leadership right now – it is never too early for YOU to learn more about the series and consider signing up for next year. You can learn more HERE.

In the fall of 2019, I had the chance to intern at Easterseals in Manchester, and this past summer and fall I interned at Gateways Community Services. It was interesting to learn more about these organizations and see how they operate. I played an important role in making Gateways’ 40th Anniversary Celebration a success with social media promotion and managing the fundraising website. 

These experiences have helped me grow as a writer, event planner, and leader!

Looking Forward

Throughout the past 2.5 years, I have learned more about issues that impact the community we support than I ever thought was possible. Thank you to all who have helped make these blogs possible – whether you have hopped on Zoom with me for an interview, given me contact information for someone to speak with or photos for a story, or have just responded to my emails on a Friday telling me you enjoyed reading the story. 

One organizational tool I use is an editorial calendar that keeps track of my past and upcoming blogs, as well as content for #WhatsTrending. This document has allowed me to keep track of timely topics, people I may want to interview for a story, and ways I can best deliver important information. Alicia Buono (Marketing Director) and I regularly discuss ideas for blog posts/What’s Trending content – and how to present topics to our readers in a research-based and intriguing way. She has pushed me to make my stories more in-depth, and because of that, I know more about disability inclusion, civil rights, accessibility, and advocacy not only throughout our area agency or state – but throughout America. 

I am looking forward to 2022 and all it has to offer! It makes me think – what are some topics YOU would like to know more about in the next year? What topics are coming up frequently in your conversations with families? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions! Email me at cdudal@communitycrossroadsnh.org and I will see how I can turn your suggestion into a blog in 2022!

 

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