Learn, Lead, Create Change – The New Hampshire Leadership Series
The New Hampshire Leadership Series is currently recruiting for the class of 2021-2022. According to the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability website, “The New Hampshire Leadership Series has been a pivotal change experience for family members and adults with disabilities by providing state-of-the-art information and strategies to effect change on disability-related issues locally and across the state.” Our Marketing Director, Alicia Buono was a graduate of the series in 2015 and has been working for the past several years as a group leader – she credits the program as a pivotal change for her family. “I was frankly lost in the early years of my son’s diagnosis, NH Leadership was extremely informative in helping me gain access to services and knowledge that helped my son but it also set the path for my future in advocacy work at both the local, state and national level. It was life-changing.”
[Alicia is pictured above with her NH Leadership home group]
The NH Leadership Series began in 1988 and over 1,000 people can call themselves graduates. One of those graduates is Deb Genthner – who went through the program in 2005-2006. Now, she is the NH Leadership Series Coordinator and each year she works with her team to showcase to individuals with disabilities and family members the power of inclusion, community organizing and the importance of public policy engagement. When people impacted by disability work together to create change and protect rights it can be a powerful experience. The Leadership Series, which runs each year from September to April, focuses on a variety of topics all relating to disability, inclusion, and advocacy. The sessions include: History (a look at how people with disabilities have been viewed and treated in the past and the Laconia State School institution in our own state), Vision (creating goals and visions for yourself), Community Organizing (how to gather a group of people with similar goals and make your common goals a reality), Turning Ideas Into Actions, Education (the importance of inclusion in the classroom and allowing people with disabilities to reach their full potential), Legislative Process (how a bill becomes a law and how to give a testimony and meeting with your legislators), and A Good Life (recognizing that people with disabilities can live a full and great life).
[Deb Genthner, NH Leadership Series Coordinator]
At the end of the series, Action Group presentations are given. These presentations are focused on a topic relating to disability such as education, competitive integrated employment, access to preventative health care, mental health, or any other topic that those in the disability community and advocates are looking to create change. There is also a Leadership Reunion/Gala at the end of the series which welcomes back past graduates of the series to celebrate Leadership and the newest graduating class.
“An important benefit to being a part of the NH Leadership Series are the relationships made throughout the program; classmates, group leaders, legislators, and presenters,” Deb said. She added that many graduates will keep in touch and continue to be leaders and advocates for people with disabilities. Here at Community Crossroads, virtually all of our Family Support Council and many of our board members and staff are Leadership graduates. Our CEO, Dennis Powers, served as a group leader in the series for five years and calls it “one of the best things that happens in New Hampshire for families”.
30 people will be accepted to participate in the NH Leadership Series that will run from the fall of this year to the spring of 2022. You can learn more and apply HERE: https://iod.unh.edu/nh-leadership/applynominate if this program is one that interests you. Due to following COVID-19 safety precautions, the series will be hybrid for the 2021-2022 year. Sessions from the ‘Meet & Greet’ to ‘The Good Life’ will all be held via Zoom and on March 18th the first in-person session will take place.
Deb said she recommends the NH Leadership Series to anyone – no matter their ability or how much knowledge they may have on any of the topics that will be discussed. She hopes the series will showcase that “the possibilities are endless” for those with disabilities.