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Meet Julian Wang (front row striped shirt)...newly elected Treasurer for Speaking for Ourselves-Colorado. Read on to see the amazing experiences and insights Julian brings to Speaking for Ourselves! FIND OUR WHAT HE REFERS TO AS A "DEAD RIVER!"
SINCE WE'VE NEVER MET JULIAN, WHY DON'T YOU START BY TELLING ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF!
Ok, I was born in China and lived there until I was 14 1/2. My Dad is Chinese and my Mom is Canadian. I am the 2nd oldest out of four kids. I moved to the U.S. in 2004. I went to an International School in China. And we would go to Canada to visit and come to the States for my Dad's meetings with the group he worked in China as a missionary for.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO MOVE FROM CHINA TO THE U.S.?
The culture shock was not a big deal for me. Whenever we did come here, we had to drive everywhere, so I knew that part. The biggest shock flash challenge was going to school here. In China, we had to wear uniforms...all the schools had them. Here in the public schools, there are no uniforms and that was difficult for me. You had to worry about what you were wearing. And if you were in trouble in China, the uniforms spoke out...here's where to call for help. Who is a friend? Who is in a rivalry? You could see who went to which school by the uniform them wore. Here you have to wait for a football game to see who is in what school.
SO TALK ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION IN CHINA?
I got around on public transportation to go everywhere I wanted to go. I used train, ferry, taxi and I was independent that way. Transportation is an issue I want to be involved in. There's not adequate transportation here. In my senior year, I tried to get a Learner's Permit but I failed the test twice. I had to get DVR to help me for lessons, to pass the test. Now I drive here.
DO YOU WORK?
I work at Home Depot. I am Bilingual Assistant in the Garden Department.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN PEOPLE FIRST AND SFO?
Through a member's parent. My parents would go to CSU for Friday afternoons club at the International House, a dorm for international students. I'd go with them in the summer to hang out. I talked to the mom who was an original founder of the ARC in Larimer County. She invited me to People First.
I was unemployed in Fort Collins that year. I went and checked out the meeting. They offered me to run for the election and I was elected Vice President. I had a good feel about it.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
For me, I like meeting people that I could make friends with. And I like a lot of advocating on situations. I did some advocacy in Missouri in the Global Messenger Program of the Special Olympics. I would do speaking at events to help advocate for funding.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DISABILITY RELATED ISSUES IN LARIMER COUNTY?
Access to transportation and equal employment. People with disabilities want to be part of everything, pay taxes, be somebody. But it is hard if you can't drive. I can work in any entry level job but not everyone can. I worked as a Courtesy Clerk in a grocery store and now I am in the Garden Department helping customers. Not everyone can, but everyone can do SOMETHING.
For everyone to have some kind of job, we have to get involved to make that happen. Have to get interested and get the federal government and the state to get benefits fixed so we don't get penalized for earning money. We are all dealing the same circle of life issues!
WHAT DO YOU DO IN LARIMER COUNTY TO WORK ON ISSUES?
I have gone to City Council meetings and testified twice at City Hall on budget things, mostly on transportation. The ARC of Larimer County has a project called "Everybody Works." We provide good stories to businesses and others..about the success of people with disabilities in jobs.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING TREASURER OF THE STATE GROUP NOW?
I'm enjoying the role. I want to meet a good support system through SFO and help SFO too. I want to do the job right. It's also a skill for me to have.
SPEAKING OF JOBS, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MINIMUM WAGE AND SO MANY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITES STILL WORKING IN PROGRAMS WHERE THEY DO NOT EARN MINIMUM WAGE?
It disappoints me that so many people with disabilities are underemployed. People need to be treated in ways to help them grow.
I look at a river. There is a source in and a source out. You need both a way in and a way out. If you don't have both, you have a dead river. We're all like that in the community. We are a part of the community system. Some programs are like a dead river.
PEOPLE FIRST MEMBERS IN THE SAN LUIS VALLEY ARE EACH STARTING THEIR OWN BLOG. COOL, HUH!
My name is Shelly Chacon. I have a 32 year old daughter. She graduated from Adams State University and lives in Denver now.
I was blessed with a grandson that is going to be 2 years old in February. Josiah is his name and we call him JoJo for short.
I visit him as much as I can. I baby sit with him sometimes so his parents can go out to dinner or a movie.
When I am with them, we go to the park and he plays on the slide and swing. We go shopping and to the zoo. He likes the monkeys and likes to make monkey noises. When we were at the zoo I bought him a play monkey. He loves that monkey. He sleeps with it. He hides his monkey in the kitchen pots.
JoJo likes to get letters in the mail from me, Grandma Chacon. I hope I get to see him for his birthday. He's going to be in a play and he is going to sing. My daughter sends me pictures of him; he is getting so big. When he comes to Grandma's house, he likes to talk on the old phone. He also likes to watch Tommy the Train.
At our December People First meeting in the San Luis Valley, we talked about what to do now that every current member has been interviewed for our blog. Karie had an idea that everyone loved: interview her mom, who is an adviser for our group.
MEET LAVERNE: She has been an adviser for several years now. Read on to hear her thoughts and observations....and to experience a unique level of dedication!
KARIE, WHY DID YOU WANT TO INTERVIEW YOUR MOM FOR OUR BLOG?
I just thought it would be different to have an adviser interviewed because all our members have been interviewed already. And I'm so glad she wants to be involved. After I interviewed her, I went to work with a joyful heart that day because of the interview and for everything she has accomplished and helped me accomplish too. At first she didn't want to be interviewed, but she said if it's something you want, Karie, I'll do it for you.
MOM, WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE SAN LUIS VALLEY?
I like the weather here in the summer when it's not too hot. I love the mountains that surround it.
DID YOU SEE MUCH ABOUT DISABILITY WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
I hadn't seen anyone with a disability here in the valley, but when my sister and I went to Pueblo and lived with our grandmother, some students would go to mass at the mental health hospital....the state institution. Through the Catholic Church, we'd volunteer and go and participate in mass on Sundays. I saw people with disabilities there, really for the first time.
WHAT HOPE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR DAUGHTER?
I don't see her living on her own for a two years more maybe. I want you to stay involved with this organization and to come up with more ideas to help your situation and others. I'd like to see you hold an office at the state level that has a bigger role. I see you eventually living on your own. I know one person who lives in her own apartment with a community of people around her. It's several buildings in a row with other folks and seniors in them. So you can live on your own and be involved a lot with others too.
WHAT PLACES HAVE YOU TRAVELED TO?
Since I retired, I went to Europe, Croatia, Rome, Venice, Portugal. I was just wonderful. I went to the Vatican. I also vacation with my husband each year. We go to Las Vegas for his pool tournament and I go shopping and sight seeing.
DO YOU MISS WORK? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR SPARE TIME NOW?
No I do not miss work. I enjoy seeing my co-workers at City Market when I go grocery shopping there. I am involved with People First now and with helping out at our church. We have two step-grandchildren now and 3 days a week I watch them after school. And one time a month, I go to lunch with my retired co-workers and that is very special.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE AN ADVISER OF PEOPLE FIRST?
I missed out when I was working on helping Karie with the organizations she is involved in and I wanted to be more involved and help out as much as I can.
WHAT ARE YOU LEARNING FROM PEOPLE FIRST?
Oh, an immense amount. So many people do more than what the public sees....and are just regular people with this hiccup in their lives. I watched one of our members start by living at home and then getting a part time job and then moving into his own place and then learning to cook. Watching him really brought things forward for me. How folks learn to manage for themselves and to help others has been really eye opening for me. It's a great opportunity to keep broadening my horizons instead of looking just at the small scope of things.
TELL ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED WITH SPECIAL OLYMPICS.
I first started attending with Karie and I saw the help she got from it. She really grew there too. It helped her ability to walk. She learned to run there. Being involved with so many people helped her. I learned to help coach even. It was overwhelming sometimes, but I enjoy all of it.
KARIE, DID ANYTHING IN YOUR MOM'S INTERVIEW SURPRISE YOU?
Yes, I didn't know about her growing up and going to the institution to volunteer, I never knew that. I was happy about it because it was a part of her past and that is important to her and her sister and my great grandmother. She lived with her grandmother, my great grandmother for a while.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT SHE HOPES FOR YOU?
We talked about that this past Sunday. I can picture myself living on my own, but I don't know when yet.
INTERVIEW DECEMBER 22, 2014 BY KARIE VALDEZ AND ANNA COLLINS
COPYRIGHT PEOPLE FIRST-SAN LUIS VALLEY
VICKY WRAY: Denver People First, Historian of Colorado Speaking for Ourselves and
Region 3 Representative to National Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered. A true leader!
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO PEOPLE FIRST IN THE FIRST PLACE?
A friend of mine invited me to go to a meeting just to see what it was like. What happened is when I went to the church for the meeting, we talked to Linda who was the adviser then. I wanted to join to know more about what it is all about. My friend got me there.
WHY HAVE YOU STAYED IN PEOPLE FIRST ALL THIS TIME?
It's a really good group to learn about things. That's what it's all about. You can't just turn your back and say you don't know about things or I can't do things. You can.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN PEOPLE FIRST AND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES?
I was kind of shy. I wouldn't say a word. I just listened all the time. I didn't know what they were talking about and so I kept my mouth shut. They were doing the officers and all that and I still kept quiet, even if someone said "Vicky, what do you think," I still kept quiet.
I started out as the representative from Denver to the State Speaking for Ourselves group. I couldn't even read my report. I was shaking and started to cry. I never shake or cry anymore. Now I don't even need notes. I can just say what we do at our meetings.
There is a lot of learning to do. You learn about other people. I learned to be a leader instead of crying. When I was the state representative to SABE, I learned how to get to a hotel by myself. The first time I flew to one of the meetings, it was in Houston. I didn't know anyone and I was alone. I flew alone. Houston was a big airport and I didn't know where to go. I called my People First adviser in Denver and he talked to a ticket person and they got me to the bus. Then the bus passed me by 16 times because I didn't know the bus. Then somebody found me. Now it's easy to find a hotel.
WHAT HAS BEEN HARD FOR YOU AS YOU HAVE BECOME A LEADER?
Sometimes thinking for yourself is hard. It's not easy. It's hard work that's in it. That's how I do things: I listen to others and hear what they have to say and I try and I work at it. It works out if you work with other people.
HOW DID YOU LIKE THE 2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN OKLAHOMA CITY?
It was really neat. I got elected on the national board as the region 3 representative. I will travel by myself to the meetings four times this year. I enjoy traveling and have a lot of fun doing that.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
I live in a new place. I have my own apartment. I live alone and I enjoy living by myself. I can see the mountains and the sunshine out my window. I have lived by myself for a long time. My sister helps me with my money and bills.
DO YOU WORK?
I work at Diamond Shamrock. I do the trash, sweep the parking lot and help inside. I been there 11 years.
HOW DO YOU GET AROUND DENVER?
I use RTD, the regular buses. You can go anywhere you want to go on a bus.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Window shopping. I love window shopping to see what they have. Especially at Christmas time.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT PEOPLE FIRST?
Come and see what it is like. If you don't like it, you don't have to join it. We don't want to push anyone to come. Just invite someone to come with you and see what it is like. Age doesn't matter. You can have fun and learn here.
You learn about yourself too! I think it's like 4 walls around you with doors. You can open the door and go in it. Open your heart to let people in and help you and for you to understand them. That's how you learn, that's how I did it.
interview november, 2014 by Anna Collins, san Luis Valley People First Adviser.
Karie was at the first meeting of People First-San Luis Valley back in 1997 and she has been involved ever since. She has also represented rural Colorado on the DD Planning Council and is now the VIce President of the state group Speaking for Ourselves.
Karie is a woman making a difference!
Here is what she had to say in an interview on 1.27.14:
HOW HAVE PEOPLE FIRST AND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES HELPED YOU?
They have helped me become more independent and give me the way to reach a goal of facilitating about disabilities....of being an advocate for people with disabilities.
WHAT EXACTLY ABOUT THESE GROUPS HAS HELPED YOU?
Having other people with disabilities to talk with about their lives and their disabilities...to know what they are facing and they know what I am facing. There isn't any talk about this at my workshop, so I didn't get to reach my goal there.
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE "SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES" MEAN TO YOU?
We're disability advocates and we can say what we want and how we feel and not be embarrassed.
IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT PEOPLE FIRST OR SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES THAT HAS NOT GONE WELL FOR YOU?
Getting to the meetings is always a problem, especially the state meetings.
WOULD YOU TELL ME THREE WISHES OR DREAMS OR GOALS YOU HAVE NOW?
1. Go to the national Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered conference in Oklahoma this October.
2. Go to a Nuggets game. I never went to one.
3. Go back to California to visit one of my cousins.
WHAT MAKES IT HARD TO REACH THOSE GOALS?
Transportation is always the biggest one. If you don't drive, you have to wait for someone else to go too, and depend on someone else all the time. It's a big issue always. There are no buses available in the SLV. Also saving money is always an issue too.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE SAN LUIS VALLEY?
I have lived here my whole life. Knowing so many people here is what I like. When I post something on Facebook, I get a lot of responses and they like what I am saying. I get encouraged. I can be social here in the SLV because I know so many people.
SO IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU THINK FACEBOOK IS IMPORTANT?
People with disabilities can find out about meetings and activities and keep in touch with people. They can see pictures. I keep in touch with my friends.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART, IF THERE IS ONE, OF LIVING IN THE SLV?
Transportation...it's always transportation.
AT A LOT OF STATE MEETINGS THESE DAYS, THE TOPIC OF EMPLOYMENT KEEPS COMING UP. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT EMPLOYMENT?
People with disabilities want jobs not in sheltered workshops. They want jobs in the community.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU HOPE WILL HAPPEN WITH PEOPLE FIRST-SLV AND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES?
I really want to go to the national Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered meeting in Oklahoma and we need to do fund raising to go there. I would like to have the community help us fund raise sometimes. Maybe we need to have a fund raising meeting and ask people to help us figure out how to reach our goals with fund raising. If you want to donate to People First-SLV so that we can go to the state meeting, check the contacts page of our website for information on how to do that.
WHO DO YOU THINK MIGHT LIKE BEING A MEMBER OF PEOPLE FIRST-SLV?
Anyone who wants to learn. Anyone who wants to be an advocate for themselves or for other people too. It's fun too.
JAN was elected as President of Speaking for Ourselves-Colorado in October of 2013. BUT she is not new to self-advocacy or to community service.
Read on to understand Jan's commitment to self-advocacy and disability rights.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE SELF-ADVOCACY IS SO IMPORTANT?
There are a lot of reasons. Basically it is to let people know that people with disabilities can do anything they set their mind to.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME INVOLVED IN SELF-ADVOCACY?
A while ago. I have really been with The Arc for 20 years. I was really involved with the People First language bill with all the chapters.
WHAT ISSUES DO YOU FACE IN THE COMMUNITY THAT ARE RELATED TO YOUR DISABILITY?
I have a good support system from my 3 brothers and 2 sisters. I am part of DDRC as a Board member and consumer representative, and I get some services from them. I have a provider that comes weekly to help me with grocery shopping, errands, bills, household stuff, my checkbook. Basically I am in the community a lot.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO GET PLACES?
I get some help from the Community Center Board for access-a-ride and access-a-cab and also with coupons for light rail when my provider is with me. I used to get vouchers for taxi rides but that program went away. I get rides from other people to People First meetings at night. I can walk to the coffeehouse where we get together once a month.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT ISSUES IN COLORADO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES?
Jobs are important. I had a 35 year career with the government and am retired now. I am very proud of what did there. It is hard to be a person with disabilities and be accepted in the workplace outside of workshops. People still look at us as not being able to work outside workshops. We just need to keep on them and hopefully it will improve.
I have my Associates Degree from Auraria, got it in 1977.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT PEOPLE FIRST AND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES?
Getting together with my friends every quarter for the state meeting and monthly here in Jeffco. It makes me part of a community. The Arc and DDRC are big parts of my life...i feel good because i am achieving and giving back to the community.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES ACCOMPLISH WHILE YOU ARE PRESIDENT?
I want us to continue to do the things that are important to the organization, like getting the by-laws improved. I want the officers to learn accountability for their jobs. I'd like to re-do our organization's PATH plan.
TELL ME ABOUT THE PICTURE OF YOU WITH SENATOR TED KENNEDY?
I was there for a conference in DC with DDRC in 2005. Our group went to lunch with Senator Ken Salazar and as we were going up, Senator Kennedy was coming down. Ron Marquez with DDRC talked to Senator Kennedy and told him he had someone who wanted to meet him and would he wait for her to come down. He did. That picture is the first thing you see at my place. I think he is a hero for people with disabilities for the Americans with Disabilities Act and he signed more legislation for people with disabilities than any other Senator.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I like to read biographies. I do a lot of computer work. My favorite TV shows are NCIS and NCIS-LA. I like Dancing with the Stars too. I go on outings with my family and with my provider in the community.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND?
We need to be accepted for ourselves. People need to look at us as People First and the disability should be the last thing they look at. That's why we are called PEOPLE FIRST.