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.

Success Stories

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