Eleven young adults – each with such unique stories, sets of strengths and challenges, personalities, and character – graduated from the Leaders-In-Training program on March 1st. It was a “waypoint” for all – a monumental marker along their journey. Parents were beaming, siblings and friends were excited, and LITs were incredibly proud of their achievement.
But to us, it was big as well! This was no typical program! It was the first time since Waypoint opened in 2010 that we’ve put together an intentional, goal-focused, extensive series for a specific population that is “Open Enrollment” style – meaning we formed a team from the public. And it was an incredible success! There are a million good stories or times we can point to and say “THAT was a moment that he/she grew…” but the BIGGEST, most impactful outcome was belonging.
Let me set the stage: The transition from youth to adult is scary for anyone. Even with the most solid support systems, it’s easy to lose confidence in yourself, lose sight of your preferences, get confused about what decisions to make, know when to take risks, etc. And it’s precisely why transition-age youth with disabilities – who aren’t given the same opportunities to step out of their comfort zone and take on leadership roles – have the odds stacked against them.
But our theme addressed this: “Leadership” is actually all about knowing yourself. Knowing who you are deep down. When decision-making opportunities come up or there are relationships to manage, if you know yourself well, you can trust your judgement and your preferences, rely on your strengths, or ask for help. In this LIT program, the curriculum was written around “learning to be leaders,” but it turned out to be so much more about knowing yourself and being known by others. This group formed quickly into a “family” and they used this word over and over again to describe the group… “We’re a family!”
On March 1st, on the 13th floor of a Boston high-rise at Wilmington Trust, the evening celebration began. With food and drinks, a slideshow, and view of the city, each LIT was given a new name honoring the ways they were “known” within the group. Several LITs shared about what they had taken away from the experience, and all received a certificate and gift. Also in attendance were the new LITs and their families – those that have been accepted into the 2018-2019 crew! The graduating class got to shake hands and welcome in these new and excited young adults.
Check out pictures of this exciting event and some posts we’ve done along the way: LIT is in Full Swing, The Progress Report, and LIT Backpacking Trip 2017. And a huge thank you to Wilmington Trust for making this program possible!
Lastly, this could be YOU or someone you know! We’re still accepting applications for the new LIT team! Apply at www.waypointadventure.org/leadersintraining/!
The rest are pictures from our last few programs. Below is our Outdoor Rock Climbing adventure at Quincy Quarries in October 2017. Everyone was assigned a specific partner that they had to work with for the rest of the day. On this day, friendships in the group really started to go deeper.
Next up was our Indoor Rock Climbing adventure of November 2017. This program started out a bit differently than most. Thanks to the gracious hosts at Central Rock Gym in Watertown, we held a panel discussion and all the LITs’ families joined us. On the panel were three young adults with disabilities who had leadership experience and could speak to the adulthood transition process: Melissa Bradley, Kamisha Heriveaux, and Jack Hanke. These three shared about their experiences getting jobs, finding roommates, balancing schedules, navigating relationships with parents, and gave good advice to our LITs who were working on figuring that stuff out! At the end, we all climbed together!
Our planned January “Snowshoeing” adventure turned more into an ice-hike in the 60s…. strange… but wonderful. We spent the day at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge practicing navigation, making decisions, and working together as a team.
Our last adventure was a full weekend up at The Browne Center at UNH. It was a perfect way to celebrate the culmination of hard work and personal growth. This group became a family. And no, that doesn’t just mean “they became great friends.” That means dragging gear on sleds to a yurt, burrito buffet by headlamps, a NEVER-ENDING, no-mercy Uno game, a chorus of snoring unlike anything you’ve ever heard, launching through the trees on the Flying Squirrel, trying to balance the entire group on a teeter totter, Robert hoarding the pop tarts, Zach’s mad libs, Ryan sampling the roast beef, and a heartfelt, honest, and beautiful bracelet ceremony. There’s so many memories to take away from this weekend and this series overall. But it’s the connection to purpose and investment in relationship that made weekends like this one stand out.