Kellyn, a Leader in the Making
This summer, Kellyn Donahoe participated in the Youth Leadership Forum, a regional event hosted by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, the Centers for Independent Living, and other community partners. YLF’s mission is to help students with disabilities build leadership skills to prepare them for secondary education, future employment, and living independently.
Family and friends describe Kellyn as bright, kind, and hardworking. She is known for motivating others and giving great hugs. She is involved in extracurricular activities from “sports to marching band and youth church groups and volunteering and student council.” Kellyn loves hanging out with her friends, bike riding, and writing letters.
As a participant of the Cleveland YLF in partnership with Services for Independent Living, Kellyn is now a senior at Lakewood High School, which is bittersweet because of the teachers and faculty that she “really love(s) so much.” She says that being in high school brought her “interaction and friendship” and that the additional support she receives from her teachers helps her succeed in class.
Kellyn was born with Down syndrome, which she explains impacts her with low muscle tone, short fingers, and short stature. At school, she focuses on speech, reading, and using a calculator for math. She also receives extra time on tests as part of her Individualized Education Program (IEP). Kellyn explains that having Down syndrome “impacts me because I have feelings about having a disability. Some days I don’t like it.” Despite having a disability, Kellyn says that her friends don’t see her disability when interacting with her; they see Kellyn. She says, “They think of me by my personality and what I do for them for what they need.”
Kellyn heard about YLF from a friend who had participated, then Kellyn was asked to participate herself. She most enjoyed meeting new people and sharing her personality with others, realizing the importance of self-advocacy. Kellyn highly recommends YLF and advises future participants to be ready for what they learn.
When asked about the future, Kellyn said, “I want a real job!” After college, Kellyn wants to become a teacher assistant and a part-time assistant basketball coach. She has a vision of people with disabilities being involved in school and the community. Her wish is that “people would not be judgmental of those with disabilities” and instead focus on and accept individuals and what they can do.
~Photo credit: Inga Wihelmy
~Article credit: Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD)