I'm Determined Camp


For two days in June, 133 young people with disabilities from all parts of Virginia gathered to network and discuss issues important to them at the 10th Annual Youth and Parent Summit on the east campus at JMU.

During the Summit, the youth—ages 13-21—participated in groups led by I'm Determined youth leaders to discuss how the core components of self-determination could be applied to their lives.

“They come for their own reasons, but they’re usually headed for college or a career,” says Amanda Randall, state coordinator of the I’m Determined Project based at JMU’s Institute for Innovation in Health & Human Services.

This year’s theme was “Journey of a Lifetime.” It was about the youth finding ways to overcome their disabilities by looking at their strengths. During a panel discussion, Randall was struck by a question raised by a young man with autism. In college, students must inform the administration of any disabilities so they can be accommodated.

“Isn’t this counter-intuitive?” asked the young man. “You have to let them know you have a disability so they can accommodate you, but society looks at you differently when you disclose. When people find out I have a disability, they don’t want to talk to me.”

“This reminds me how strong these students are and how important self-determination really is for these students,” Randall says. “We are encouraging them to be so exposed regarding their disability, knowing that society may or may not accept them for the amazing abilities.” 

The I’m Determined Youth and Parent Summit, held each June, is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and the Partnership for People with Disabilities. Summit attendees are expected to return to their schools and communities to share the self-determination message.

For more information about the I’m Determined Project, see imdetermined.org

Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

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