Dickenson chosen for Partners in Policymaking

Dickenson chosen for Partners in Policymaking Twenty-seven individuals from 16 counties throughout South Dakota comprise the Partners in Policymaking Class of 2002.

Selected to participate in the 10th year of Partners in Policymaking from Vermillion is Amanda Dickenson.

She is a 1997 graduate of Vermillion High School. Dickenson is employed at Taco John's and Community First National Bank. She is also treasurer of People First, a local advocacy group for the disabled. Dickenson is the daughter of Ross and Sandy Dickenson, Vermillion.

Partners in Policymaking is an innovative leadership and advocacy training program designed to involve and empower individuals with developmental disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and other family members. It requires a serious commitment by each participant during the training, as well as after graduation.

The expectation is that each Partner will commit to actively use the acquired skills to encourage positive changes in the areas of community awareness, sensitivity, accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Class participants attend six two-day training sessions from November through April. At each session, an expert in disability and advocacy fields presents information and interacts with the class. Partners have the opportunity to work on communication skills, assertiveness, decision-making skills, legislative testimonial presentation skills and group activities. Each participant must complete homework assignments every month.

The Class of 2002 will meet at the Holiday Inn Express in Ft. Pierre, Nov. 2-3 for session one. Dickenson will be accompanied by staff from SESDAC, Vermillion.

David Hancox of Golden Valley, MN, will speak to the class on the history of disabilities, history of the parent and the independent living movement. Hancox will also present about the use of people first language. A message Hancox will tell the group is "building supports in local communities is the first step in achieving inclusion and it is everyone's responsibility."

Jim Kellar of Sioux Falls will help the class get to know each other by teaching them how to network by explaining the different personality traits and how one trait can deal with another. The interactive presentation aids individuals to better understand why "they do the things they do" and how to cooperatively work with individuals who think and act with a differing opinion.

Two Partner graduates will share with the class how Partners changed their lives. Inez Muilenberg, Huron, tells of her experiences and how Partners not only changed and improved her life, but also that of her daughter. Muilenberg is now very active in her home community regarding disability issues.

Travis Hamilton will inform the class how Partners helped him better understand and overcome his disability. It encouraged him to become involved in various disability-related boards and activities.

South Dakota Advocacy Services staff will also participate in the first session with an overview of the agency and the work they do.

Partners is funded in part by grants from the South Dakota Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities, Children's Care Hospital and School, the South Dakota Center for Disabilities and S.D. Parent Connection.

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