I recently took note that I have been in my new position as Program Coordinator at PEAC, Pennsylvania's Education for All Coalition, Inc. for a full year now. I am blessed to be working at an organization that is doing outstanding work in the disability community. PEAC's innovative Parent Consultant Network, PCN, views parents as experts. The PCN is utilized to provide one-on-one assistance to other parents and to provide presentations at colleges and universities. For their time and wealth of knowledge, the parents are paid nicely. As most of us know, this is the type of work that we usually do as a volunteer because of our commitment and passion. Sounds pretty good, right?
We just hosted another successful IEP Clinic where families were paired with experts (big name attorneys, advocates and other parents) to work on improving their child's IEP. For free. Plus free day care. We had a waiting list and are already planning the next one in May.
Just as we were wrapping up our 1st ever Inclusion Conference (a monumental 3 day event in Philly) in November 2011, a small group of us were charged with writing a grant to the PA DDC or Developmental Disabilities Council. We dreamed, we discussed, and we wrote and wrote. The RFP was sent on its way in early December. As our current grant is coming to a close at the end of June, no more funding would very likely mean no more position for me and limited work for the PCN and PEAC. Then we waited with bated breath. For months.
Finally we got word that our proposal has been recommended for funding! We will continue to do much of the same work that we currently do. However, the new element that I'm most proud of is the development of the Self Advocate Network. Modeled after the PCN, we plan to utilize adults with developmental disabilities as experts. We will pay them to share their stories and educate the future teachers of our country.
This is a dream come true. Let me say it again. We received funding that supports our idea to PAY self advocates to be involved in systems change, to be held up as the keepers of a wealth of knowledge, to be involved in training our future educators and in turn creating a better educational experience for our children with disabilities and without.
There are many other wonderful aspects of this new grant which starts July 1st. In case anyone is interested, below is a piece I lifted from the RFP.
Pennsylvania’s Education for All Coalition (PEAC) has established many strong partners with parents, schools, and students with disabilities throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. PEAC proposes to strengthen these partnerships to develop and promote cultural change within schools regarding inclusive education. PEAC’s Parent Consultants will provide high-quality training, support, and resources to parents and families of children with disabilities, including underserved families, low-income parents, and parents of limited English-proficient children to empower them to collaborate with educators and ensure their children are being educated in the least restrictive environment. To do this, we will continue to work with our 5 existing school district partners. These districts are committed to working with PEAC to ensure that all children can be active participants in their schools and communities. Our five university partners will continue to work with the school districts and PEAC’s Parent Consultants. Throughout our work on the Educational Rights Project, several modules such as the Working Collaboratively: The Key to Success module showcase the work and commitment of collaboration between these partners. There is a foundation of school administrators, building principals, families, and students who are leaders capable of building and strengthening inclusive schools and communities with the right support. The model for cultural change within schools will have the following components and will address the DDC objectives for Improving the Knowledge Base, Selecting Clear Social Strategies, Obtaining Stakeholder Involvement and Supporting Policy Entrepreneurs:
• Develop Inclusion Committees that include students, families, and people with disabilities, school administrators, building principals, teachers and university personnel in each district.
• Conduct roundtables and community forums to solicit both members and member-generated ideas for strengthening inclusive education.
• Develop a network of student self-advocates who will receive training and support to share their educational experiences and beliefs regarding inclusive education and disability. This will include the leaders who have benefited from the C2P2 Emerging and Established Leadership development program.
Collaborate with agencies such as the Latino Project who provides technical assistance to the Latino community. Recruit these family members to become Parent Consultants.
• Develop a Council of Cultural Brokers: PEAC will identify leaders within the targeted regions/neighborhoods that are willing to act as cultural brokers who can extend their influence and trust to resident families of children with disabilities. These may be religious leaders, neighborhood business leaders, neighborhood elders and others.
• Conduct IEP clinics that will serve as both trainings and opportunities to provide one-on-one technical assistance to families and educators.
I won't be coming off of cloud 9 for a while. Care to join me?