MOUNT VERNON — Several students in Knox County Educational Service Center’s Transition Mission program recently attended the People First of Ohio state convention at Roberts Convention Center, Wilmington.
Joellen Hunter, convention coordinator along with Sadie Hunter, said the two-day event was the first time many of the 526 attendees had ever traveled out of their home counties or even stayed in a hotel. She said the convention is aimed at helping individuals take charge of their own lives. Themes and sessions are determined by the People First board of directors, which is comprised of members with disabilities.
This year’s theme, “Blazing New Trails,” promoted self-advocacy skills and encouraged individuals with disabilities to pursue their dreams. Besides formal presentations, the conferees could choose to attend breakout sessions dealing with community employment, voting, bill of rights and responsibilities, protection from abusive interactions, leadership skills, customizing employment and job development. There were information booths and the chance to participate in art design or have a hair and cosmetics make over.
The greatest part of the convention, said KCESC Transition Mission instructor Nancy Gregg, was the social aspect. She said her students — Heidi Armstrong, Matt Beckley, Heather Brown, Joe Cochran, Josh Fuson, David Hollar, Amber Johnson and Brittany Suesse — really enjoyed meeting and talking with peers from around the state.
KCESC Transition Mission graduates Shelly Simpson, Ami Iverson, Erica Moxley and Mike Jones also joined their former classmates and talked about how they obtained their choices of post secondary services.
Gregg said the support and encouragement of Mount Vernon residents Sadie and Joellen Hunter were big reasons why the Transition Mission class attended the convention. She said the trip was made possible through scholarships for the students and the donation of staff registrations made by People First. The staff members, attending on a volunteer basis, paid for their own transportation and hotel fees.
Joellen Hunter said Carrie and Scott Swingle and Brad and Brian Hunter also volunteered a lot of hours to make the convention a success.