Vermillion resident graduates from Partners in Policymaking

Vermillion resident graduates from Partners in Policymaking Twenty-six South Dakotans just spent the past six months training to be People Who Make Things Happen! Among the S.D. Partners in Policymaking Class of 2002 was Amanda Dickenson of Vermillion.

These individuals, adults with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, were honored in Sioux Falls on Saturday, April 13 for completing the innovative leadership program, Partners in Policymaking. Partners training analyzes developmental disability issues and builds skills that consumers, parents, and guardians need to effectively obtain the most appropriate state-of-the-art services for themselves and others and participate in decision making situations.

Over 225 people attended the banquet and commencement ceremonies at the Radisson Encore Hotel, including District 15 Rep. Mary Glenski of Sioux Falls and Sen. Joe Reedy, District 17, from Vermillion.

Unable to attend the festivities but sending letters of congratulations were Gov. William J. Janklow and Sen. Tim Johnson.

Jim Kellar, a consultant in Sioux Falls, provided the welcome and told the audience "I am very impressed with this training. Individuals grow and learn, they gain self esteem and knowledge. Seeing people work together for a common cause is very powerful." Keller told the class "give yourselves a pat on the back, you are role-models for all of South Dakota." Partners in Policymaking in South Dakota sponsored in part by grants from the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, Children's Care Hospital and School, USD Center for Disabilities and South Dakota Parent Connection. National and state speakers who are knowledgeable of disability issues present on current issues affecting people with disabilities, best state practices, and the policymaking and legislative processes at the local, state, and federal levels.

The overall goal of Partners in Policymaking is to achieve a productive partnership between people needing and using services and those in a position to make policy and law. The training is one weekend per month, for six months, and takes dedication and commitment on the part of the participant.

The training program in South Dakota is conducted by S.D. Advocacy Services (SDAS). "This year was a milestone for Partners in Policymaking," said Sandy Stocklin, the project coordinator for the statewide training course. "We now have over 215 individuals who have completed Partners in Policymaking throughout South Dakota. Their voices are being heard.

"We strongly believe that individuals who use services should have a major role in determining what services they are being provided and how they are delivered. It is really exciting to see the Partners' enthusiasm and commitment to improving national, state and local services," she said.

Robert J. Kean, executive director of SDAS said, "Partners is a training event that is growing in stature and being recognized as one of, if not the premier advocacy effort in the state."

In addition to graduation ceremonies, over 80 graduates of prior years of S.D. Partners in Policymaking spent the weekend in Sioux Falls attending continuing education classes on current issues. "Networking is very integral of the entire training initiative. We have made a commitment to gather all graduates with the current class and offer continuing education and networking. Once a Partner graduates from the course, they are not forgotten," said Stocklin.

Members of the class of 2002 include: Scott Allen, Dawn Menning and Charlene Pfeifer of Aberdeen; Lori Ross-Messner, Kim Rademacher, Dawn Dresden and Kandie Ronfeldt of Rapid City; Lynn Blaseg and Loren Wohlwend of Pierre; Ahva Halma of Brandon; Pete Norris, Jennifer Pletzke and Betsy Valnes of Sioux Falls; Ginger Gines of Mitchell; Darin Roth and Linda Wegleitner of Huron; Beth Sampson of Selby; Nicole Haneke of Miller; Vikki Day of Highmore; Amanda Dickenson of Vermillion, Angela Kralicek and William Sorenson of Yankton; Fern Boll of Ward; Lona Kay Tibbs of Faith; Barb Koenders of Brookings; and Kati Seymour of Murdo.

Year 11 of Partners in Policymaking will begin in November 2002. For more information on the program, contact Sandy Stocklin, SD Advocacy Services, 221 S. Central Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or call 1-800-658-4782. Or you can visit the SDAS Web site for Partner information at www.sdadvocacy.com or email stocklis@sdadvocacy.com.

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