Vermillion residents complete leadership training

The 26 graduates of Year 19 of Partners in Policymaking were honored to have Governor Dennis Daugaard and First Lady Linda Daugaard in attendance for their banquet and banquet held in Sioux Falls on April 9, 2011. Over 475 individuals have completed this state-wide leadership course.

Tim Neyhart of Pierre, representing SD Advocacy Services presents a certificate to Cathy Colwell and Heather Lafferty of Vermillion. Colwell and Lafferty recently completed the leadership course Partners in Policymaking and were honored at a banquet held in Sioux Falls on April 9.

Cathy Colwell and Heather Lafferty of Vermillion received their certificates for completing the 6-month training course. The class motto for Year 19 was We Are All Alone in ThisTOGETHER!

While in the class, Colwell and Lafferty and their classmates studied about the history of disabilities, inclusive education, presented mock testimony to a panel of South Dakota legislators, learned about meetings, Social Security, employment, assistive technology and inclusive communities.

Keynote speaker was Dr. Jerry Blake of Sioux Falls who told the class to never tire of doing the right thing. Receiving awards for advocacy were Elaine Roberts of SD Parent Connection in Sioux Falls and former Secretary of State Chris Nelson of Pierre. Other guests attending the banquet included Carmyn Egge of Sioux Falls representing Senator Tim Johnson, Jeannie Hovland of Sioux Falls from Senator John Thunes office and representing Representative Kristi Noem was Brad Otten from Rapid City. Also in attendance was former state Senator Dan Ahlers from Dell Rapids.

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.

Partners is Policymaking is a nationwide training now in 38 states and also in the UK, Scotland, New Zealand, Ireland and the Netherlands. National and state speakers who are knowledgeable of disability issues present on current issues affecting people with disabilities, best 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 program in South Dakota is conducted by SD Advocacy Services (SDAS). Sandy Stocklin Hook of Pierre is the project coordinator for the statewide training course. She noted, We now have 499 individuals throughout South Dakota who have completed Partners in Policymaking. Their voices are being heard! Stocklin Hook also commented 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. Robert Kean, Executive Director of SDAS, noted, 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.

Class speakers for graduation were L.Waltner, Harrington, J. Nelson and Bohm.

In addition to graduation ceremonies, 151 graduates of prior years of SD Partners in Policymaking spent the weekend in Sioux Falls attending continuing education classes on current issues. Networking is a very integral part 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, commented Stocklin Hook.

Year Twenty of South Dakota Partners in Policymaking will begin in November 2011. For more information on the program, contact Sandy Stocklin Hook, SD Advocacy Services, 221 S. Central Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or call 1-800-658-4782. Or you can visit the SDAS Website for Partner information at or email

Partners is sponsored in South Dakota by grants from the SD Council on Developmental Disabilities, Center for Disabilities at Sanford School of Medicine at USD; Childrens Care Hospital and School; and SD Parent Connection. South Dakota Advocacy Services facilities the training and contributes funding through the Protection & Advocacy Developmental Disabilities Program; Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program; and Protection & Advocacy Individual Rights Program.

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