Friday, August 25, 2017

Mary Trittscuh is Leading the Way!

This summer was a little less than ordinary for one Darke County teen. Mary Trittscuh, of Arcanum, was selected as one of only 45 delegates to take part in a five-day leadership and advocacy training program. The high school juniors and seniors participated in Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities’ (OOD) annual Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) from July 30th - August 3rd where they learned how to continue their journey of independence into adulthood.

Forum delegates took part in various activities that taught them about choosing a career, the history of disability as a culture and instruction on self-advocacy. The youth leaders also learned to develop their own leadership plans and create their own personal goals.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller noted, “Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities was honored to hold the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF). OOD believes that YLF is a wonderful opportunity for students with disabilities from all across the state to come together and grow as individuals, and thrive in their communities. While at YLF, the students had a chance to see how other individuals their age deal with their own disabilities, while also learning about self-advocacy and career opportunities.”

While attending YLF, the delegates went on their own private tour of the Statehouse. They also met people there who have disabilities and found success in their careers, like Nate Fernandes, who works on ensuring the Secretary of State website is accessible for those with disabilities; Mark Seifarth, who has worked at the Statehouse for 35 years as a legislative and advocacy consultant; and Blake Haxton, a lawyer and a Paralympic rower, as well as a former OOD Commissioner.

Mary, a junior at Arcanum-Butler Local School District, wasn’t sure if she would be selected after filling out the lengthy application, one that requires an essay and several letters of recommendation, “I honestly didn’t think I would get in, but I applied anyway and look how that turned out!” Mary is the first Darke County delegate to have participated in the Youth Leadership Forum. “I just thought it was a cool opportunity and the idea of being able to go somewhere on my own was exciting. I learned a lot about self-advocacy, both from the program and from watching the older kids. It was an amazing experience.” Mary strongly suggests that other youth apply to the annual forum. “I loved it there. It’s a great way to get a little bit of independence if you’ve never had the experience before, but there are people there to help you, if needed. The friends you meet there become your family and are probably friends for life!”

Parent approval
Jennifer Trittschuh did have her doubts, “it was a bit overwhelming to drop my 17 year old daughter living with a physical disability off at an unfamiliar location, in the care of strangers. Now hearing Mary talk of her experience, and seeing the friendships she made, it was one of the best decisions! Mary learned about leadership, self-advocacy, and independence from the program, but she also conquered some big fears like being away from home for the first time, using provider care, and public speaking. More importantly, she obtained REAL WORLD knowledge from peer mentors and adult staff living with disabilities about going to college or being in the workforce. That is invaluable….and quite frankly, something that she can’t learn from her family or from school.

While the ultimate objective of this event is to give a glimpse into the adult world, the youth were encouraged to continue to develop the type of advocacy and leadership skills needed to become a lifelong advocate in their communities and the workforce. For more information on OOD’s Youth Leadership Forum, visit

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