Engagement grant will help support disability advocacy

New York State Partners in Policymaking graduates Leslie Feinberg, left, and Ashley Gazes, right, are pictured with state Assemblyman Charles Lavine, D-13th.

When 2019 comes to a close, so will the Yang-Tan Institute’s Partners in Policymaking class, taught for 10 years through grants from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

The program will continue, however, supported through an Engaged Opportunity Grant awarded through Cornell’s Office of Engagement Initiatives, which will fund some of the activities.

“This is critically important work,” project director Carol Blessing said. “Lives are changed because of this program. The end of state financial support does not end the need for quality leadership and advocacy training for New Yorkers living with disabilities.”

An innovative model of leadership and advocacy training for people with developmental disabilities and their parents and family members, the Partners in Policymaking program equips people with the knowledge, tools and resources to be effective advocates for change on local, state and national platforms.

Over the past decade, more than 400 people have graduated from the three-month online program; it combines online resources with live webinar instruction and culminates with an advocacy project developed by each student.

Examples of the graduate-produced projects:

The Yang-Tan Institute will continue to provide access to the online curriculum for program graduates.

Additionally, Blessing will use Engaged Opportunity Grant money to fund a two-day training program, “Partners 4 Progress: Building Family and Community Capacity to Lead System Change at the Local Level,” which will bring together a select group of Partners in Policymaking graduates in 2020.

“We are going back to grassroots advocacy,” Blessing said, “by equipping leaders across the state with the resources they need to deliver advocacy training and information in local communities.”

Julie Greco is a communications specialist with the ILR School.

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Gillian Smith