by Jake Shumbo, Youth Intern

We all have dreams that we have set and made for ourselves. Whether they are outlandish or very realistic, we owe it to ourselves to reach them. When thinking about what you may want to do in your future, be as outlandish as possible because no dream is too large. You can have found inspiration in the most practical way, or you can just go for a very exaggerated dream and then be very happy for how far you’ve come in the end. Either way you choose, you are going to have to 100% believe in what you are choosing to do. 

After you have chosen what you want to do in 20 years, you have got to ensure that you will not accept anything less. For, myself I have found inspiration in the music that I listen to. Letting myself connect to the music to strengthen my confidence and improve my motivation. Using this method I hold myself to a higher level of achievement, using this to advance everything that I am putting my efforts into.


with Special Guest Writer and Parent: Melissa Cruz

In the state of Connecticut, there are different ways to complete your ballot and vote. The article below describes these different methods:

Manual Ballot

In Connecticut, the most common way to vote in an election is by paper ballot also known as a manual ballot. On this ballot are the names of the candidates who are running for election and, occasionally, referendum questions. To complete the manual ballot, voters fill in small ovals by the names of the candidates they choose and their response to any referendum questions. The voter darkens the circle or oval next to the candidate’s name using a black or blue marker. They also mark their responses to the referendum questions. Once the voter completes all their choices, they place the ballot in the optical scan tabulator where it is counted and securely stored. 

Advocacy Tip If the voter makes a mistake, they can request a new ballot as many times as necessary.


Ballot Marking Device

The Ballot Marking Device is designed as a way for voters to mark a ballot when they cannot access the ballot due to disability or the inability to read the ballot choices.  Anyone, however, can use the ballot marking system!  The ballot marking device includes a tablet, a keypad, and headphones.  A voter can either complete a ballot by using the touchscreen on the tablet or by using the audio system which requires the voter to listen to the ballot through headphones and make choices on a keypad.  

If the voter chooses to use the tablet, the names of the candidates appear on the touchscreen and the voter touches the name of the candidate they want to choose. A check mark will appear in the box in front of the name of the candidate indicating the voter’s choice. If a voter makes a mistake, they can touch the box again to remove the check mark. To vote for a write-in candidate, the voter touches the box to the right of the words, WRITE-IN. A keyboard pops up, and the voter types in the candidate's name. The voter can review the ballot and make changes. When they are satisfied with their choices, they will be prompted to complete the ballot. The ballot marking device will then print the voter selections on a manual ballot. The ballot is then put through the tabulator to be counted and stored. 

The audio system provides verbal cues to guide the user through the voting process. These cues will require voters to push different buttons on the keypad to make their choices. When the voter has finished the ballot, there is an opportunity to review their selections. Like the tablet feature, the voter will be asked to complete the ballot, the ballot is printed and goes through the tabulator to be counted and stored.  

The ballot marking device has no memory. Once a ballot is printed, it is automatically erased from the system.  Therefore, if the voter reviews the ballot and is not happy with the selections, they can request a new ballot but will have to start all over again.  

Advocacy Tip: If you want to use the ballot marking system, let them know when you check in.  A poll worker will activate the device for you and ensure that you have the proper ballot.

Absentee Ballot

An absentee ballot is a manual ballot that is completed by the voter who is unable to be present at the polls on Election Day. To be eligible for an absentee ballot, a voter must meet one of the following criteria:

       Will be absent from town during all hours on voting day;

       Have an illness which prevents them from voting at the polling place;

       Have a permanent physical disability which prevents them from going to the polls;

       Active duty in the US Military and away from home;

       Have a religious tenet that forbids activities on Election Day.   

A voter who needs to vote by absentee ballot must first complete and submit an absentee ballot application. The applications are available through the local Town Clerk. After the absentee ballot application is received, the voter is given or mailed the actual absentee ballot. That ballot is completed by the voter and may be mailed, placed in a ballot box at the voter’s town/city hall or given to the Town Clerk. REMEMBER: Absentee Ballots must be received before 8 PM on Election Day. 

Advocacy Tip. Be very mindful of  the date of the election.


Emergency Ballot – This is an absentee ballot that may be requested by a voter who experiences a health crisis within 6 days of Election Day and the crisis prevents the voter from going to the polls. A voter can obtain an emergency ballot application by contacting their local Town Clerk’s office. The completed form must be returned to the Town Clerk's office. Once the application is approved at the Town Clerk’s office, they will provide an emergency ballot for the voter. The ballot is taken to the voter, completed and returned to Towns Clerk's office.  The emergency ballot must be completed and returned by 8:00 PM on Election Day. 


Curbside Voting  - If a voter has a disability or illness that prevents them accessing the polling place on Election Day, may arrange for curbside voting at the polling place. The ballot is brought outside to the voter by two designated polling officials.  The voter completes the ballot and the officials bring the ballot into the polling place and deposit it into the tabulator.  Curbside voting is only to be used on rare occasions when a voter can’t access the polls due to illness or injury that occurred close to the time of the Elections.


Advocacy Tip: If the voter needs to used curbside voting, they should contact the Registrar of Voters and arrange for assistance.


If you have questions about any of the ballots or would like to see samples, contact your local Registrars of Voters.


with Special Guest Writer and Parent: Melissa Cruz

All polling places must be physically accessible to persons with disabilities. The route from the accessible parking to and through the polling place must be able to navigated by individuals using mobility devices such as wheelchairs, canes, and crutches. The process or methods of voting must also be accessible to voters with disabilities.  Some of the other rights of voters with disabilities include:

      Access to a sample ballot in large print.

      Any videos for use by voters must be closed captioned.

      Voting privately and independently – voting equipment for voters who cannot use a paper ballot to vote privately and independently. 

      Moving to the front of the line if the disability prevents the voter from waiting.

      Unlimited time in the polling place to complete the ballot.

      Have someone assist you with marking your ballot – There are some exceptions to this rule.

      Vote using any method at the polling place.  Currently, voters can manually complete a paper ballot or use the ballot marking device that must be available at all polling places and the Election Day Registration location.

      Bring a service animal into the polling place. 

If you are a person who has a guardian or conservator of the person, you cannot be denied the right to vote unless a probate court has issued a specific order stating that your right to vote has been taken away.

Advocacy Tip: If your polling place is not accessible – on Election Day, contact the Elections Division of the Office of the Secretary of the State at (860)509-6100.  

After Election Day, you can file a complaint with State Elections Enforcement Commission at:

State Elections Enforcement Commission

55 Farmington Ave

Hartford CT 06105

Phone Number: 860 256-2940



with Special Guest Writer and Parent: Melissa Cruz

Are you registered to vote? Are you eligible? To be eligible to vote in Connecticut, you must be a U.S. citizen and 18 years of age by the day of the election. You must also be a resident of a town in Connecticut. That’s it!  

There are a lot of options for voter registration. One of the fastest and easiest ways to register is online through the Secretary of the State’s website: You also have the option of registering at the Department of Motor Vehicles and many other organizations offer paper registration forms. Some of these locations include your local Town Clerk's  and Registrars of Voters Offices, colleges and universities and public libraries as well as the Departments of Rehabilitation Services, Social Services, Developmental Services, and Public Health. 

It is Election Day and you forgot to register to vote. It’s NOT too late! You can still register and vote on the same day!  You don’t do this at your polling place. You register and vote at your Town’s Election Day Registration location or (EDR). The EDR location is open during the same hours as the polling place, 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Because you are registering to vote on the day of the Election, the ID requirements are more stringent. Some of the acceptable forms of ID include:

      Driver's License

      Birth Certificate

      Learner's Permit

      Utility Bill Within 30 Days of Election Day



      Current Bank Statement

      Social Security Card


Advocacy Tip: If you are registering to vote on Election Day, check with your local Registrar of Voters about the location of the EDR and the requirements for IDs.  Get there early – they can be very busy places on Election Day!

Inspiration Porn: The Objectification of Disabled People

By Emily Ball, Mentor Coordinator

Inspiration porn, a term describing the objectification of disabled people by people without disabilities, is an ablest concept. There are several different forms including videos, articles, and memes. It is used to motivate non-disabled while completely stripping the subject of their personhood. Oftentimes, it is acute child shown walking without their mobility devices. “If they can do it so, can you!” Other examples include portraying disabled people doing normal things like going go to prom or playing sports. The phrase “No disability in life except a bad attitude.” is especially harmful because it strips away all of the societal and structural barriers people with disabled people face. Sensationalizing an able-bodied person asking a disabled person to prom is harmful because oftentimes all the focus is placed on the able-bodied person and there is little mention of the disabled person.


Inspiration porn is detrimental to the disabled population because more often than not, people who share it are well-meaning individuals. Inspiration porn means putting unrealistic expectations on people with disabilities just to prove to non-disabled that their lives may be hard but “at least they are not disabled.”  Inspiration porn is so normalized in society nowadays that people do not realize how hurtful it is to people with disabilities. Something as simple and benign as a stranger saying, “So nice to see you out and out about.” when someone in a wheelchair is going about their day is actually quite passive aggressive. It is as if to say people are lucky to be out in public.


Inspiration porn is not the “uplifting, “feel good” story or meme you may think it appears to be. I suggest the next time you see a similar story in the news to reflect and say, “Would this be in the news if the person wasn’t disabled?’ Disabled people are people like everyone else and not fictional characters, and deserve to be treated like anyone else.

What can you add to your PPT/IEP/504* meetings?

by Jake Shumbo, Youth Intern

My first PPT I was bored out of my skull. Over time, I have learned to enjoy them. I enjoy speaking about where I have been successful and where I want to venture next. I enjoy learning about new opportunities and the path to them.

When you are invited to your PPT meeting it may be intimidating at first. It was for me. You may hear your teachers tell you what you can’t do. They did it to me. A bunch of adults talking about you and not to you and reading from reports that are hard to understand. That happened to me too. Here’s what you need to do: prepare yourself. Expect the unexpected. Read the reports ahead of time (and ask for help in understanding). Prepare goals and objectives. Advocate for yourself. Practice leading your meeting.

When I go to my PPT I do the following things with my team:


1.    Set realistic goals

2.    Plan paths to those goals. Include a few options

3.    Choose the right path for you

4.    Put the plan in motion 

5.    Identify supports, accommodations, and modifications needed


Confidence and belief in yourself and your support team is essential to a successful meeting and year. I feel it is important to lead your PPT. Be the boss, it’s your life!

PPT's should not be intimidating. They should be productive and could even be fun. Take control of your life by taking control of your PPT.

Good luck :)


*PPT: Planning and Placement Team

IEP: Individualized Education Program

504:Section 504 Plan

Person First or Identity First: How to Address Your Child with a Disability

By Emily Ball, Mentor Coordinator

Person first language is the belief that emphasizes a person’s individuality and not their disability. It conveys respect that they are a person, and not just defined by their disability.

Identity First language is the belief that a person’s disabilities are a significant part of one’s identity. Some people may prefer this term because it emphasizes the effect their disability has on their life.

Person first and identity first are two different individual preferences. The key term in this sentence is preference. A parent may know their child like no one else, but that child knows what living with a disability is like firsthand. Depending on a child’s age, they may have their own preferences. For example, if they were born with a disability, they may see their disability as a part of themselves. Or they may be born with their disability but feel very disconnected to that side of their identity in which case they prefer person first language. Parents and caregivers should listen to their preferences and respect them.

Language regarding the disability community is a very personal choice. For nondisabled caregivers or parents, I suggest letting your child take the lead. Whichever identity the child chooses, better it be their decision, because it is their body and their choice

Self-Care during the times of COVID-19

By Jake Shumbo, Youth Intern

To begin with self-care is the number one priority at any point in time, whether you are a front-line worker or an average-joe. In order to successfully promote yourself, job or an action that you’d like to inspire, you’ve got to have an open-mind and a driving force to accomplish what you set out too.

Self-care does not only include your health, happiness or even what you are doing to make yourself feel better in any given moment. It means still doing what makes you feel like you are accomplishing your goals that you are meant to be in that moment in your lifetime.

In conclusion, if you want to take care of others the first thing that you should do is ensure that you are at a 100% yourself.  This will let you be able to support others as well as yourself in any situation that you may encounter.

Aha Moments!

By Jake Shumbo, Youth Intern

Aha moments, those moments that give you a sudden glimpse of clarity and direction. We have all experienced aha moments.
In my life my aha moment occurred when I realized that I was not leading myself to the future that I desired.  I was uninvolved and not interested or in tune with my future.

How could I ever expect to succeed if I could not be bothered?
How could I expect others to believe in me if I did not even believe in myself? 
That was my aha moment.

I decided I needed to be involved, I needed to have a voice.  Then opportunities found me.  I had positive impacts on others and myself.

In all of these experiences you’ve got to discover something new about yourself.
How can you improve yourself, your environment, and your experiences with others?
How can you reach the future you that you want to be?

Think about how your positive attitude and actions can change not only your world but the world around you.
Maybe you can inspire someone else’s aha moment!