The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for July 2011

Summer of New Experiences

This week’s blog was written by Craig Campbell our Summer 2011 Intern. Craig has been helping at a few organizations to support their staff to successfully include children and youth with disabilities.

The summer of 2011 has provided me the opportunity to work in a field that I have not previously had much experience with.

Some things I have done and some places I have been on site this summer:
Training Sessions: Myself, Allison, and Hyun have done a lot of training sessions over the course of just about a month and there was so much that I learned by working with them and the audiences we presented to. The ideas that these groups had, whether big or small, were all very creative and I feel like every time we left I learned something new about inclusion and working with people with disabilities.

Boys & Girls Club Kalamazoo: I have had the opportunity of working at the BGC for a majority of the summer and I have worked with some very fun and interesting people and members. I have helped out with their Summer Arts Academy, Drop-in, and their recent annual trip to South Haven. What the staff there does day in and day out to be there for their members and their families is nothing short of amazing. The BGC members have the opportunity to go to a place where they can hang out with children of all ages and stay out of trouble. The BGC is a true asset to the Kalamazoo community.

The Nature Center Kalamazoo: Though only for a week, I assisted the Nature Center during one of their many camps. I had never been to the Nature Center previously and I have learned a lot about what it is they do and how they teach children about nature and being environmentally responsible. The opportunity that these children have in attending camps here is something I wish I could have experienced as a child.

Featuring Josh Stephens

Josh is a young man that we met through the Regional Interagency Consumer Council (RICC) of Kalamazoo County. He is currently the Chair of RICC. We were so impressed with Josh’s ability to involve everyone in the advocacy activities of RICC and his commitment to volunteering in the community. Josh also has become an enthusiastic participant in our Building a Community of Belonging Network.

This year we invited Josh to be part of our team when we provided training to summer camp staff. Josh led the part of training about person first language and very openly shared how important using respectful words are to him personally.

We are very excited that Josh recently entered an essay contest co-sponsored by Ability Magazine. In his essay, Josh shared his personal story. You can see Josh’s essay at The Arc’s Achieve with Us Contest.

A Long History of Innovation

The Arcadia Institute was founded in 1994 to make it possible for people with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of community life that they choose. Throughout our history we have approached this mission through a variety of projects and programs throughout Michigan.

We have had a leading role in advocacy efforts for educational reform and systems changes in the mental health system. We have been an incubator to nurture other people’s ideas to fruition, including Parent to Parent of Southwest Michigan which began under our auspices and later became a separate nonprofit corporation.
We have developed new and creative ideas to support both people with disabilities, including the creation of the parent run Community Connections Council which provided peer support and funding for individuals and families. We have conducted leadership training for professionals through our Leadership Colloquium, a national workshop on dialogue and published a number of booklets on new programs.

We have been a source of information and guidance to others in three basic areas:
• Information and training
• Leadership development
• Demonstration projects and ongoing programs

The Community Participation is our largest program thus far, but in the sweep of our history it is one of a long line of ‘initiatives’. Visit our web site

A Cheerful Story

Andrea and Kiley (not their real names) are sisters who have had many challenges in their lives. Two years ago, they really wanted to try competitive cheerleading, but funding was an issue. So first we paid for them to enroll in a program. Later that year, the girls’ cheer team made it to the state tournament, but they didn’t have the skirts for their uniforms. So we helped them with that expense.

Then, this family seemed to vanish when we called to see how the tournament had gone.

Flash forward to this past week. We were contacted by a Parent Support Partner from Advocacy Services for Kids (ASK) who told us about two girls who were part of a cheer team that was going to the National Championship Tournament in Las Vegas, NV. The mother had saved enough money for most of the expenses, but needed help with the entry fee. Sure enough – it was Andrea and Kiley! Of course we cheerfully helped! We are delighted that we have been a part of the girls participating in an activity they obviously love!

Congratulations to them and we wish them all the best at the National Championship Tournament!