Jonathan’s Jolly Old Trip to England & Ireland, Part Two

Jonathan Shuman is a young man who loves to travel the world. He sees the world in a positive, friendly way, and he wants to share his experiences with all of you. This is part two of three in Jonathan’s new travel series – catch up on part one here!

a busy Temple Bar in Dublin, IrelandThe day after we hiked to Glendalough, we took a stroll of the Temple Bar district in Dublin, Ireland. We also took a tour of the Wall of Fame where famous Irish musicians held their place in the Irish music industry such as U2, Thin Lizzy, Enya, Sinead O’Connor, The Corrs, and Celtic Woman. We also ate dinner in an Irish restaurant and we listened to traditional Irish music. One of my favorite Irish foods that I ate in Ireland was the traditional Irish breakfast which consisted of an egg, blood sausages, 2 pork sausage links, mushrooms, ham, bacon, and roasted tomato. Another favorite food that I tried in Ireland was the fish and chips, which is beer battered cod fish with chips – or as the Americans call them, French fries.

The next day, we flew from Dublin, Ireland, to London, England, via Aer Lingus airlines. When we arrived at London Heathrow Airport, we took a shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn Express hotel located in Stratford, London, England. The first thing we did in London was we went to Westminster Abbey. It was closed to the public unfortunately.Jonathan and his friend, Ross, outside of Windsor Castle

The next day, we took a shuttle bus and we traveled to Stonehenge in England. Stonehenge is a collection of Neolithic stones that the Druids constructed. The Druids were a Celtic tribe that practiced an earlier form of Christianity. We also learned what life was like during the construction of Stonehenge. For example, people had to live in huts. They didn’t have the technology to move the stones, so they moved the stones by their hands. After Stonehenge, we went to Windsor Castle where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spent their honeymoon.

Westminster Abbey when it was closed to the public.

The next day, we went to Buckingham Palace and we saw the changing of the guards. We didn’t actually see Queen Elizabeth II – maybe because she was busy doing something else. After the changing of the guards, we took a tour of the interiors of Buckingham Palace. We also went back to Westminster Abbey, and we saw the interiors of Westminster Abbey this time.

Watch for the third installment of Jonathan’s travel series to learn about the Tower of London and discover his recommendations for England and Ireland!

Jonathan’s Jolly Old Trip to England & Ireland, Part 1

Jonathan Shuman is a young man who loves to travel the world. He sees the world in a positive, friendly way, and he wants to share his experiences with all of you. This is part one of three in Jonathan’s new travel series,

Jonathan standing in front of a rock at Berkshire National ParkMy name is Jonathan Shuman. I’m 29 years old. I live independently in the Chicagoland area. I currently work as an office assistant at an architecture firm called Solomon Cordwell Buenz in downtown Chicago. I’m a huge fan of world travel. Some of the places in the world that I’ve been to include Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, St. Martin, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, France, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden. Today, I want to share my experiences from my recent trip to England and Ireland with Search Beyond Adventures.

On Thursday, September 20, 2018, my mother Joelle picked me up at Photo of Aberdeen Lodge with large garden surrounding circular signHarrison House in Evanston, Illinois to take me to Chicago O’Hare International Airport where I would meet the tour guide and new group of friends that I would be traveling with for the next 9 days. It was a normal flight and our flight from Chicago to Dublin, Ireland lasted 6-7 hours long. When we got to Dublin International Airport, we went to the Aberdeen Lodge which is a Victorian-style hotel that’s located at Park Avenue in Dublin, Ireland. I was roommates with my new friend David who is from Hastings, Minnesota.

When we were in Dublin, Ireland, we did lots of fun stuff. We went to places such as St. Stephen’s Green and Christ Church Cathedral, which was built at the time that the Tudors ruled England. We also went to the Guinness Brewery and I learned how beer got its name from barley which is used to create beer. I tried a Guinness draught beer, and it tasted very strong.

Image of Wicklow Mountains, green pastures surrounding a lakeThe next morning, we went to the Wicklow Mountains and the Sally Gap and we went to Glendalough, a tiny town in Ireland, which is home to a monastery built by St. Kevin. The monastery is called Sevenchurches. Over the course of its 1,000-year history, it has been raided by the Irish clans, the British, and the Vikings. That same day, we took hikes and we went to a lake located in Glendalough and we watched the sunset. One cool thing that I saw was a tomb that was used as a filming location for a TV show called Vikings starring Alexander Ludwig.

On the next installment of Jonathan’s new travel series, find out who is on the Ireland Wall of Fame and some of Jonathan’s favorite parts of England! Stay tuned!

Evanston Public Library Explores Community

In September, the Evanston Public Library hosted an event called “Human Library,” where people’s lives were the story. At this event, attendees could “check out” a human book and talk with that person about their story for 15-20 minutes. Two members of Center for Independent Futures’ community were available to talk about their lives with the Evanston community.

Learning Differences

Lindsay, one of our participants, was interviewed for “Dear Evanston” by Nina Kavin. Lindsay’s book was titled “Learning Differences,” and she focused on explaining to people how she feels about being someone with a disability. Lindsay says she felt excited to participate, rather than nervous.

Because of Lindsay’s nonverbal learning disability, she says, “I’m not able to read certain cues or body language.” Nina Kavin asked how that affects Lindsay. “It makes me feel overwhelmed and makes me not want to interact with certain people,” Lindsay answered. According to Lindsay, one way to help is to understand how she is feeling and being flexible in their reaction.

Diversity in the Disability Community

Another of our participants, Billy, also participated in this unique library event. Billy is part of the LGBTQ community, and he has recently changed his preferred pronouns to “he/him” or “they/them.” Billy’s story was about showing that people with disabilities are just as diverse as people without!

LGBTQ advocate Sandy“Many people don’t realize people with disabilities can be gay, lesbian, or have other identities. We are not in a box,” Billy says. He chose to participate in the Human Library event because you can never advocate too much, especially when there are misconceptions like that.

One aspect of the event that surprised Billy was the type of questions he was asked. Several people asked why Billy couldn’t continue to be called Sandy – since Sandy can also be a male name. They responded, “I prefer to go by Billy because I picked that name. I think Billy fits me.”

We love having a diverse group of participants at Center for Independent Futures. It makes our community stronger, and it makes each of us aware of the different identities we can each have.

Thank you to the Evanston Public Library for hosting this cool event and for including our community.

A Jam-Packed Life

This story was featured in our 2017 Annual Report, which can be found on the Media Gallery page on our website. Check it out to learn more about our partnerships with families, schools, and agencies across the country.

Just Adam Being Adam

Living a full, independent life is something most people want as they grow up. Adam Wiser is no different. Over time, Adam knew he wanted to live on his own. He wanted to explore the world around him with a jam-packed life full of activities he loves.

Adam smiles at past Something's Cooking fundraiserA road trip offers a chance to experience new places, broaden horizons, and have fun. For Center for Independent Futures participant Adam Wiser, a road trip seemed like a great opportunity to bond with buddies. So last year, Adam and two of his friends went to Pittsburgh, singing along to Billy Joel and enjoying the “thrill of the open road.”

When Adam moved to the Chicagoland area, he left his family behind in Indiana. He fell in love with Evanston, and built a life filled with work at Nordstroms Café, cruising around on his Diamondback, and hanging out with friends. These days, Adam loves movies on the big screen and prefers comedy and action films. “You need to see the second Thor movie,” Adam advises. “It’ll really make you laugh!”  An avid sports follower and loyal Cubs fan, he enjoys an occasional chance to see them play. “It feels awesome to be at Wrigley Field,” he shares. “I am not really into the SOX.”

Following Adam’s Dreams

Adam poses with friends he has made through Center for Independent FuturesAdam’s parents, Tom and Gloria, encourage him to follow his dreams. “We want our son to grow as an individual, expand relationships, and have the support he needs to become who he is meant to be…his best self,” shares Tom. With Center for Independent Futures support, Adam is part of a genuine community and has a full life with authentic connections. “If anything comes up, serious or not, someone is there to support him through it,” says Tom. “For parents living away from their kids, that’s a lifesaver.”

“It’s an absolute joy to be part of Adam’s team and to watch his confidence and capabilities grow,” relates Community Builder, Aby Karottu. “He brings so much humor, positive energy, and liveliness to the community, and he always lends a helping hand.” Aby adds, “I consider myself lucky to support such a caring, charismatic, and kind young man.”

Adam’s Pittsburgh adventure included the symphony, a Pirates game, and the Heinz Museum, where he learned all about the city’s transportation history…and ketchup. When Adam thinks about his goals, more road trips and see new things are at the top of his list. Adam’s next destination: The Mall of America in Minneapolis. Anybody ready to hit the road?

David’s Senior Bowl Dreams Come True!

Logo for Senior Bowl. David attended and made his Senior Bowl dreams come true. Center for Independent Futures participant David Kromelow has been dreaming for three years about attending the Senior Bowl, a post-season college football all-star game played each January in Mobile, Alabama. The event showcases the best NFL Draft prospects of those players who have completed their college eligibility. The game has consistently been played on a Saturday in January, and the week-long practice that precedes the game is attended by key NFL personnel (including coaches, general managers and scouts), who oversee the players as possible prospects for pro football. Last year, David just didn’t feel it. This year he achieved his Senior Bowl dreams.

How David Made It Happen

“I wanted to go because it would be a great experience to network and interact with people in the NFL and in the journalism business,” explains David. To get himself ready, David spent a lot of time over the course of the past year practicing his craft by hosting a weekly podcast and reaching out to guests via social media. He worked hard on his podcast and website to push out content and to stay on top of all the important NFL news, and to connect with others in the industry.

Feeling more comfortable, in tune with college football, and armed with information to interview journalists, prospects, NFL media relations, and PR teams, David headed for Mobile. “It is hard to describe because it was such an amazing experience,” relates David. “I flew in on Monday, checked into the hotel, and attended an introductory media hosted event. I was able to hit the ground running and interview many prominent reporters.”

The most powerful moment of the week came during the Senior Bowl2 football players in a tense moment introduction press conference. Shaquem Griffin, a University of Central Florida defensive player, and very unique player in the football world given the fact that he lost one of his hands due to a birth defect, was present. David posed this question: “What advice would you give kids with any kind of disability?” Griffin responded with a powerful statement…“It’s not a disability unless you make it one.”

“Hearing his answer made me think, this guy is wise beyond his years and it would be a shame if he didn’t get a shot in the NFL. He has the mental toughness to be successful and to defy the odds – because he has been doubted his whole life. It was an inspiring moment.”

Living Out His Senior Bowl Dreams

After the first day, David met two of the best NFL local beat reporters. He learned that conducting a brief 2-5 minute interview with notable guests is a great way to collect large amounts of quality content and information. “I had the chance to interview Albert Breer, an American football journalist and reporter for Sports Illustrated‘s MMQB, and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the latest buzz in the industry,” David shares about his Senior Bowl dreams experience. “It was awesome! Unfortunately, his phone went off and we weren’t able to finish the interview.” David muses, “I have improved a lot in the past few years in my understanding of social cues, and the experience with Albert demonstrated it.”

Senior Bowl field with logoCenter for Independent Futures Life Skills Tutor, Jake Rohde, has been impressed with David’s determination and drive. “It has been great to support David, and to watch him go after his Senior Bowl dreams. He’s an inspiration!” David hopes to attend future Senior Bowls and similar events to keep building contacts, making connections, and boosting his profile. His ultimate goal is to develop a career in sports reporting. “I am fortunate to have my parents, friends, and family supporting me at every turn,“ he says. “Their constant encouragement motivates me to keep the train rolling!”

So, what does it feel like to be living the dream? “The best way I can put it is that I felt like a kid in a candy store AND the candy there was even sweeter than expected.”

Help David Achieve His Dreams

Visit David’s website: http://www.sportskrunch.com

Listen to David’s podcasts: http://www.sportskrunch.com/episodes-page/

 You may also find David’s podcasts on iTunes, the Apple Podcast App, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Search “Sports Krunch” to find the entire podcast listing.

Looking Ahead at the End of Pride Month

By Avielle Suria Trenche

Pride Month has been an eventful time in Chicagoland! As it comes to a close, we want to celebrate by featuring the efforts of our community members and sharing ways to get involved after Pride Month ends.

LGBTQ advocate SandyCenter for Independent Futures participant Sandy Clymo serves as an Advocate at an organization called Proud & Included. Proud & Included provides individuals with developmental disabilities who identify as LGBTQ with opportunities to build community and tools to advocate for themselves. Sandy is also an ambassador at Proud & Included, a role that includes mentoring, training, and encouraging self-advocates to participate in the community as their true selves.

The Proud & Included community welcomes individuals with disabilities who identify as LGBTQ as well as allies and family members. It’s a place for anyone seeking effective ways to promote self-advocacy and support their loved ones. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new friends and explore identities in a supportive group.

Proud & Included logoIf you’re interested in getting involved, you can attend a monthly Participant/Ally Meetings, where people come together to learn about inclusion, community events, and local resources. Their next meeting will be held on Sunday, July 9, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Center on Halsted. You can register for the event using this link: Proud & Included Monthly Participant/Ally Meeting

The celebration doesn’t stop there! Proud & Included plans to participate in the 2017 Disability Pride Parade on Saturday, July 22. You can find more information about getting involved with the parade at this link: Proud & Included Marches in Disability Pride Parade

To learn more about the Disability Pride Parade, visit www.disabilityprideparade.org. The parade’s mission is to change the way people think about disability so that society can recognize it as a natural part of human diversity, in which people can take pride.

“Spread your wings! People should be what they want, go wherever they want, and do what they want. Remember, be confident, and proud!” – JoJo Michaels, Proud & Included Ambassador

 

Sailing Again

By Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant

My grandfather’s hobby was boatbuilding, and he made sure that we all knew how to sail. This favorite pastime filled me with confidence, strength and a love of a summer day on the water. As often happens, my pastime was set aside for other commitments. And, almost every day, I found myself thinking, “I’d love to sail again.”

In my work at Center for Independent Futures, I have the privilege of supporting the hopes and dreams of individuals and their families as we plan for their full lives. We work together on living outside of our comfort zones, trying new experiences, and creating positive connections with others in our communities. And yet, I was not getting any closer to going to the dock to make the connections I’d need to get back on a sailboat.

Then I met Michael, my new sailing friend. Our first connection was at a Center for Independent Futures Social Hour where I happened to sit down next to him. On that cold winter’s day Michael and I talked about our common passion for sailing. He mentioned that he spends a lot of his summer time volunteering at the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation run out of Burnham Harbor. Michael has committed 17 years of volunteer service to this program that encourages fun and safe sailing and racing for people of all abilities. My mind was filled with visions of choppy water, the sound of lines against the mast, and the excitement of a fun day on the water. I left that day thinking, again, “I’d love to sail again.”

Michael didn’t forget! The next time I got to see him, Michael handed me a card with all of the contact information I’d need to get involved at his sailing program. He gave me the dates of the late spring volunteer training classes, and above all, he encouraged me to join him at the dock. Michael inspired and reassured me as I was feeling a bit rusty after all these years. Now Michael is my mentor at the Judd Goldman Sailing volunteer program.

Often, individuals with disabilities are isolated and unable to access opportunities to explore their interests and talents. Center for Independent Futures works to create stronger networks with individuals to connect them with others, leading to healthier, happier lives. In this case, though, our typical roles were reversed. Michael supported me, introduced me to his fellow volunteers, and encouraged me to pursue a dream. Michael’s generosity and supportiveness show that when individuals with disabilities have the chance to participate and contribute their gifts, the entire community grows stronger.

The Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation supports people with disabilities to experience the joy of sailing and develop new skills. To learn more, call (312) 747-7684 or visit www.juddgoldmansailing.org.

2016 Annual Report Shares Stories of Connections

Center for Independent Futures is excited to share our latest annual report, sharing stories of our community and supporters. Read the annual report at this link!

In the 2016 annual report, you’ll find updates on our work with individuals, families, students, and other organizations. Read about how we support Nestor Gonzalez to live his dream of independence and how we’ve partnered with Equip for Equality to help students to plan for community life. Learn how we work with Lo Que Puede Venir to support Hispanic communities and get the update on our nationwide housing work.

The annual report includes a list of our supporters during the past year, including gifts given in tribute to or recognition of individuals. This edition of the annual report features a special update from Center for Independent Futures’ co-founders, reflecting on fifteen years of supporting hopes and dreams. We are grateful to all of our supporters and community members for another successful year building on this legacy.

 

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.

Success Stories

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thu13dec6:00 pmthu8:00 pmAnime Club

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