The IC’s Youth Advocate, Nina Kamekona, teaches youth with disabilities skills like self-advocacy, disability etiquette, coping strategies, and knowing your disability. All of her workshops are designed to help students build self-confidence.
“If you can show others what trusting in your knowledge and ability can do, they can realize that they are a whole person,” Kamekona says.
Nina has walked the journey of empowerment in their shoes, having overcome the challenges of living with low vision and post-traumatic stress disorder. Smiling, she says, “helping people just like me, who are a little weird and different, to see that they can be successful too. That’s what I love to do.”
Young people learn what it means to be successful from Nina’s example. At 18 years old, Nina has molded her professional role as a youth advocate. Outside her job, she is going to college and is a successful artist. Her passion shines through in everything she does.
Nina has worked with hundreds of students, and is right now working with four school districts. Many of these students are hearing positive words about disability for the first time. “We are teaching at a younger age that people with disabilities can truly be an asset to the community,” says Jaime Harrell, Independent Living Manager.
Youth with disabilities often graduate high school without the tools they need to be independent. “They may know about resources, but they don’t know who to call,” Harrell remarks. The IC’s youth advocacy program is designed to connect young people to the many options that they have. “They will grow up with us and know us as a resource.” Perhaps the most important thing young people learn from us, Harrell says, is how to work through their mistakes.
In March, Nina facilitated support groups for students at the schools. She hopes to create safe spaces where youth with disabilities can learn how to be independent and support each other at the same time.
One of Nina’s trademarks are her PowerPoint presentations. Each is themed with stories we know and love, like Winnie the Poo, Super Heroes and Harry Potter. She highlights quotes that stick with us, like Harry Potter’s famous words, “Working hard is important. But there is something that matters more: believing in yourself.” To learn more about advocacy programs at The IC, visit our advocacy webpage, or give us a call at 719-471-8181.