Being an advocate is something I was born with. I was always able to express myself – good or bad – and say what I wanted and needed. This need to say what’s on my mind has helped me as the president of People First Nevada.
Born and raised in Southern California, I moved to Las Vegas in the mid 1990s. I discovered that there were no advocacy groups for people with disabilities. This was unacceptable for me, and I started my quest to bring a self-advocacy group to Nevada. I knew how important it was for people with disabilities to be able to speak up for themselves; after all, this was about their lives. I had tried to form a People First group on my own, but failed!
I completed the Partners in Policy Making program in 1999 at The University of Nevada, Reno. It’s leadership training for people with developmental disabilities or their parents and family members, which teaches the power of advocacy and changes the way people with disabilities are supported, viewed, taught, live and work.
At that time, Nevada’s Center for Excellence in Disabilities just started a new project, AmeriCorps VISTA. I was informed that they wanted me to become a member. This was my golden opportunity to fulfill my goal of bringing a self-advocacy group to Nevada. Through this project, I co-founded People First Nevada.
My dream is now a reality with seven chapters all around the state. I am a proud and active president of the People First of Nevada. This advocacy group is run for and by people with developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities. Each chapter runs their own meetings and manages their own bank accounts.
During the past 12 years, People First has been through many transitions. It’s currently supported by the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Nevada’s People First members have testified before the state legislation and are instrumental in getting the Signature Stamp Law and the People First Respectful Language Law passed. And we have only just begun.
My experience with People First has made me a better person, woman, professional and most of all advocate. I look forward to re-writing the book of disabilities.