Partnering with Equip for Equality for Brighter Futures

When graduation appears on the horizon, most high schoolers are excited to transition to their next educational or employment opportunity. But for students with disabilities, the thought of leaving the support of school services often creates fear and uncertainty.

Center for Independent Futures believes that all individuals deserve bright futures after high school. Over the past year, we collaborated with Equip for Equality to support Chicago Public Schools students to create person-centered transition plans based on their hopes and dreams.

Center for Independent Futures School Coordinator Sharon Purdy worked with students identified by Equip for Equality to create plans and resources, meeting with students and their supporters in their neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Sharon used our Full Life ProcessTM to support individuals to identify resources, set goals, and make plans, starting by encouraging the student to articulate their goals.

“It makes a huge difference when the families know what their students want to do. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can ask students what their dreams are,” Sharon explained.

With those dreams in mind, Sharon and the students created a portfolio of resources to support their transitions to community life after high school. They took inventory of each student’s assets and interests, identified any potential obstacles and support needs, created a map of the student’s personal network of supporters, and then set goals in all of the areas that make up a full life.

Throughout the process, the students had the opportunity to express their own hopes for the future. Margie Wakelin, a supervising attorney at Equip for Equality’s special education clinic, said that seeing students build these skills of self-expression was the most remarkable outcome of the collaboration.

“Center for Independent Futures empowers our students to direct their own transition planning and learn to self-advocate for the support they need,” Margie said. “Through using the tools Center for Independent Futures has developed, the student understands the importance of his or her voice.”

Whether a student is creating a transition plan or an individual is setting goals for the future, the voice of individuals with disabilities forms the core of our Full Life ProcessTM. Through our comprehensive, person-centered planning tools, individuals with disabilities and their families share their dreams and find the tools and resources they need to fulfill them. Our collaboration with Equip for Equality will lead to more students leading fuller lives in the community after graduation.

“Center for Independent Futures’ work has been instrumental in placing our students in a strong position to achieve their transition goals and enter adulthood with a solid foundation,” Margie said.

Preparing for a Starry Night at SPARK 2017

In less than two months, Center for Independent Futures celebrates its fifteenth year at our signature event, SPARK, on Friday, April 28.

We are grateful to our sponsors who will satisfy our sweet tooth and our thirst, including the decadent flavors of Nothing Bundt CakesFlat Top Grill‘s famous brownies, and fine wines from E. & J. Gallo Winery. Our exciting silent and live auctions will include packages like Chicago getaways with tickets to see Bruno Mars at the United Center in August and U2 with The Lumineers in June at Soldier Field.

PSAV will help us set the scene and Chicago theatre group Collaboraction will provide the entertainment for this star-studded night. As we commemorate Center for Independent Futures’ fifteenth anniversary, community members will share stories and reflections. At the end of the night, be ready to dance to the sounds of Euphoria Band, a new addition to the event this year.

Tickets for the eleventh annual SPARK celebration, hosted at the Hilton Orrington in downtown Evanston, will be available online soon. For more updates, join the Facebook event here. All proceeds from this event, our largest fundraiser of the year, directly contribute to programming, services, and sustainability.

If you’re interested getting involved with SPARK by volunteering, contributing, or learning about sponsorship opportunities, contact Niki Moe at (847) 328-2044 or nmoe@independentfutures.com.

Join the Dream Team for Bike the Drive

Join Center for Independent Futures for a biking experience like no other at MB Bike the Drive. On May 28, Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive will be closed to cars, leaving eight lanes available to bikers. Watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan and take in stunning views of the skyline as you soar down the open road.

When you ride with Center for Independent Futures’ Dream Team, you’ll be part of a team of individuals with and without disabilities, including participants, staff, board members, and friends. Our team members participate in this incredible event and raise funds for our programs and services in honor of their ride. Center for Independent Futures makes it easy to participate by supporting riders to sign up for the event, helping with fundraising, and taking care of transportation logistics on the day of the event.

We offer incentives for different levels of fundraising, like a refund of your Bike the Drive registration fee and tickets to our annual events. All funds raised by our dedicated riders support Center for Independent Futures’ vision of a future where individuals with disabilities have access to all opportunities of a full life.

To learn more about Bike the Drive and join the Dream Team, contact Niki Moe at (847) 328-2044 or nmoe@independentfutures.com.

Community Members Speak on NU Panel

Thanks to an opportunity from two student groups, members of the Center for Independent Futures community got to share their insight and experiences with Northwestern University students earlier this month.

Participant award winner Matthew LaChapelle poses for portrait with hand on chin in front of teal background.Participant and Advisory Council member Matthew LaChapelle and Executive Director Ann Sickon sat on a panel about understanding and supporting individuals with disabilities. The panel also included the director of Northwestern’s Accessibility Office, a Northwestern student, and a representative from Gigi’s Playhouse, a nationwide organization that supports individuals with Down Syndrome. The event was hosted by Northwestern University Dance Marathon, which is supporting Gigi’s Playhouse as its primary beneficiary this year, and Beyond Compliance, a student group that advocates for students with disabilities.

Matthew shared his experiences living and working in the community, including wisdom from “Back to the Future”: “You make what your life is right now, and you make your own future.”

“It touched my heart to talk about what I’ve been through,” Matthew said.

Matthew, an actor who has two jobs, enjoys speaking about his perspective to contribute toward increased disability awareness and inclusion. He served as the first mentor for younger campers at a camp in Colorado for individuals with Down Syndrome and hopes to have future opportunities to support others facing challenges similar to those that he’s overcome on his path to a full, independent life.

“Matthew did a wonderful job,” Ann said. “The comment he made that I thought was one of the most insightful moments of the evening was that the needs individuals have aren’t necessarily ‘special,’ they’re just the needs that they have to participate.”

Thanks to the community engagement of individuals like Matthew and their work to change perceptions about what’s possible, more individuals with disabilities will have full access to their communities.

New Staff Member and a New Milestone

The first month of 2017 brought a new beginning and a long-term milestone to the Center for Independent Futures staff. Chrissy Lewis joined the staff as a Full Life Process Consultant. With our schools consultation team, Chrissy will support schools to use our innovative Full Life Process software to help students set goals, access resources and curriculum, and communicate with their entire support team.

“My vision is to continue the work that has been done and create new opportunities for students to engage with the software,” Chrissy shares. “The Full Life Process software will allow students to access a comprehensive life skills curriculum and support their individual growth through a student-centered approach.”

Chrissy began her career in sales and marketing before earning her master’s degree in education. She gained experience as a teacher, case manager, and guidance counselor in Chicago Public Schools while receiving a master’s degree in counseling. After transitioning into the non-profit sector, Chrissy joined Center for Independent Futures to advocate for educational access and resources for students with disabilities.

While welcoming a new member, the staff also commemorated a milestone as Cynthia Witherspoon celebrated ten years of working for Center for Independent Futures. Currently a Community Life Coordinator and Life Skills Tutor, Cynthia has also worked on the school consultation team and supported the administrative operations of the organization. We’re grateful to Cynthia for all of the effort, insight, compassion, and humor she has shared with us over the past decade.

Founders Reflect on Fifteen Years

More than fifteen years ago, Kay Branz and Jane Doyle came to a realization about the opportunities their daughters, Elise and Paige, would have available to them after graduating from high school. The conclusion was stark: the options that their daughters desired and deserved simply did not exist.

“To discover that there was really nothing to transition to for young adults with disabilities once they left the school system was breathtakingly eye-opening,” Kay said. “The two of us realized that if there was going to be any opportunity, we’d have to do something.”

From gathering at their kitchen table to gathering families who shared similar visions for their loved ones, that “something” became Center for Independent Futures in 2002. Today, Center for Independent Futures has supported hundreds of individuals with disabilities and their families through our innovative product and service models. And every day, our community members learn new independent living skills, achieve goals, and work toward their dreams.

Kay and Jane’s daughters have been no exception. When Kay and her husband, Glen, moved to Seattle, they knew that Elise had enough support to stay in her own apartment in Evanston, and she frequently travels to visit them. “The support Center for Independent Futures provides has helped Elise have a positive relationship with her family,” Kay shared.

Jane has also seen her daughter fulfill dreams since Center for Independent Futures was founded. From achieving employment goals to planning her wedding, Paige has defied any limits. “Paige has been my greatest teacher because she’s always surprising me,” Jane said.

Like Elise and Paige, Center for Independent Futures has grown in many ways over the past fifteen years. But although the staff and office are larger, the vision has remained the same, and success can be measured by each goal accomplished and every dream fulfilled.

“The greatest joy and testament to Center for Independent Futures’ founding and continued existence are all the individuals with disabilities who have been given the opportunity and supports to contribute to our larger community,” Kay said. “We are all the richer for their participation and contributions.”

Two Ways to Shop Online and Benefit CIF!

Here are two easy ways you can get your shopping done and benefit Center for Independent Futures at the same time!

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile logoAmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support us every time you shop on Amazon.com, at no cost to you. Through AmazonSmile, you’ll find the low prices, wide selection, and convenient shopping experience of Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase price to Center for Independent Futures.

Get started! To shop at AmazonSmile, go to smile.amazon.com. Search for Center for Independent Futures and select us as your organization. Add the page to your bookmarks or favorites bar to make it even easier to start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Goodshop

Goodshop can also turn your online shopping into donations for Center for Independent Futures in a few easy, free steps! Shop your favorite websites through Goodshop, and a percentage of your purchase will be donated to back to your community.Goodshop.com works with more than 5,000 stores (including Target, Apple, Petsmart, and more). The site also offers thousands of coupons and free shipping offers.

Get started! Follow this link and select the “Get Started Button.” Search for Center for Independent Futures and sign up through Facebook or log in to start shopping.

You can also raise money by signing up for Gooddining or searching the Internet using Goodsearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine.

If you have any questions about how to use AmazonSmile or Goodshop to support Center for Independent Futures, contact us at (847) 328-2044.

Happy shopping!

Success Stories

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