Many of Vinfen’s Metro Boston Self-Advocates attended the Mass Advocates Standing Strong annual self-advocacy conference at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA on September 15 for a day of learning and celebration. The conference theme, 20 Years Strong, welcomed self-advocates, supporters, family members, allies, and providers to celebrate the past, present, and to look at the future for self-advocacy and activism.
M.A.S.S is a state-wide, self-advocacy organization that is run for and by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their mission is to empower self-advocates through education in efforts to make choices that improve and enrich the lives of those with disabilities.
Keynote speaker Tia Nelis founded People First of Illinois, served as a former chairperson of the national organization Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, and is currently a Self-Advocacy Specialist at University of Illinois at Chicago in the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health. Well known as a leader of the self-advocacy movement throughout the United States, Tia believes in the empowerment of people with disabilities and promotes this value while sharing her own experiences with her disability.
Four of Vinfen’s Metro Boston self-advocates presented at the conference. Vinfen Director of Community Living Meg Gaydos shared that the self-advocates presentation was on volunteerism, during which they highlighted the benefits of being a volunteer. “They worked tirelessly preparing and rehearsing their power point presentation,” said Meg. “The self-advocates’ experience in volunteering were featured in the presentation. Photos depicted them helping to prepare and serve food at Boston’s St. Francis House and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Other photos featured self-advocates awarding medals to Dimock racers as they ran across the finish line.”
Meg also shared, “I am very impressed with the four advocates who presented. This was their first experience in public speaking and they certainly excelled. The advocates look forward to future opportunities to share their successes!”