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Erick Dowdy, youth delegate to the caucus

Photo description: Erick Dowdy, delegate to the West Virginia Youth Caucus.

Read more about the West Virginia Youth Caucus 2005 and a story as told by Kelly Dowdy Simpson, MTSTCIL staff member.

West Virginia Youth Disability Caucus

Erick Dowdy, a youth delegate, reporting on the caucus.

My name is Erick Dowdy and I was chosen to be a part of the 2005 West Virginia Youth Disability Caucus. Before attending the Caucus I wasn't sure what to expect and I wasn't sure if it was something I would enjoy. Soon after I arrived, though, I had already met a few people that I could share interests with and by the end of the first night I felt very comfortable there.

One of the highlights of the first night was Sarah Triano's presentation after dinner. I thought she was a really good speaker and motivated everyone in the room to be proud of their disabilities. She also told us that with the help of people in the disability community we could overcome any boundaries we had.

Another highlight of Friday night was when the Governor, Joe Manchin, stopped in and shook everyone's hand. He didn't give a speech or anything but it was just exciting to know that the governor knew what we were doing and how important it was. By the end of all the sessions on the first night I was already more comfortable with myself as a young person with a disability.

On the second day there were a lot of workshops / presentations but the most memorable out of them was Corey Rowley's presentation and when we called the people participating in the sit-in's for ADAPT at the governor's office in Tennessee. It was really exciting to know that we were supporting something that big and that it could help others in the future.

On the third day we had more sessions all day, but the highlight of the day for me was the 'Maze of Change' activity. I really enjoyed that because it not only was something physical and fun to do but it showed me how fast my group members were to help accommodate me to be able to do the activity.

Because of my visual impairment I wasn't sure if I could participate, but once we started the activity I realized that I could participate easily by watching my other teammates do the activity before me.

Finally Monday arrived and it was time for the Mock Legislative Session. That was extremely exciting because we actually not only got to go on the floor of the House of Representatives, but we got to sit in the actual delegates seats. It was also cool to meet the speaker himself, Bob Kiss.

Afterwards we had the mentor luncheon at which I got to meet some more new people that could be future mentors for me.

Right before the ending ceremonies we had a chance to talk about creating plans to solve our goals. This was not only cool because I could possibly solve my problem of not being able to find a summer job but that we were told that in the future we would have an opportunity to present a bill to the House of Representatives that is going to be sponsored by Speaker Kiss.

At the end of my group's session we had come up with a law that would make every employer in WV have some sort of disability training. What made it even better was that we were told it could actually become a law one day.

By the time the ending ceremonies came I around I felt regretful that I had to leave. I had experienced so much while I was there and met so many new people, not to mention that I had learned a lot more about disabilities than I ever thought I would. The closing speakers, one of which was Jan Derry, and the other being Ed Rabel , were very motivating and the closing statements from everyone were really powerful and emotional.

As I walked out of the Youth Caucus I realized that it was a lot better than I ever thought it could be. It was one of the best weekends of my life and I knew I would remember it forever. If there is another Youth Caucus in years to come I would gladly participate in that one as well.

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