University hosts People First of Nevada Conference

2/7/2011 - By: Claudene Wharton

The University of Nevada, Reno, with support from the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities and the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, will host the third bi-annual People First of Nevada Self-advocacy Conference, “Advocacy in Action,” at the University’s Joe Crowley Student Union, March 6-8.

Participants will receive information on the latest technology, resources and advocacy issues for those with developmental disabilities through community vendors, presentations and nationally recognized guest speakers.

Some of the speakers include Kathie Snow, author of Disability is Natural; Logan and Laurie Olson, founder and directors of Logan Magazine, a magazine for young people with disabilities; Chester Finn, former president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered; and married self-advocates Austin Davenport and Christi Hockel Davenport. There will also be a social night and talent show.

People First is a nonprofit self-advocacy group run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Nevada who work together to advocate for themselves and others with disabilities. It is a project of the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities at the University’s College of Education, with additional funding from the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Matley Foundation. The role of the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities is to provide support and mentoring for the chapters and individual members of People First.

The self-advocacy movement in Nevada began when a group of people with developmental disabilities decided to meet to discuss self-advocacy and self-determination. They encountered many challenges while forming a statewide group, including Nevada’s rural nature and the lack of funds to pay self-advocates to work on the project. In 2003, they joined forces with the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, which wrote a grant to the Corporation for National & Community Service to fund five self-advocates to serve as VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members to create a statewide organization. Through these efforts, People First of Nevada officially was founded in May 2003. Twelve VISTA members now help support over 200 People First members in eight chapters throughout the state.

For more information on attending or supporting the People First of Nevada “Advocacy in Action” Conference, contact Melissa Westphal at (775) 682-9053 or westphal@unr.edu. Visit the People First website or the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities website.


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