Last updated: January 02. 2014 7:49AM - 1169 Views
By - dvanderford@civitasmedia.com

Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesEmerging community leader Derrick Means said he looks forward to exemplifying the fact that having a disability does not have to keep a person from meeting his or her goals.
Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesEmerging community leader Derrick Means said he looks forward to exemplifying the fact that having a disability does not have to keep a person from meeting his or her goals.
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UNION — An upcoming event will look to empower young adults with disabilities.

EQUIP Leadership Group will hold its 2014 Kick-Off Party from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the local Able South Carolina office, which is located at 115 Thomas St. in Union (beside the health department).

The EQUIP Leadership Group is the first and only South Carolina Chapter of the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN). EQUIP Leadership Group is South Carolina’s version of a group focused on self-advocacy, change within the community, disability education, and disability rights for young adults ages 14-25 that is also run by young adults.

The upcoming kick-off party will offer pizza, sodas, fun and games, as young adults with disabilities are invited to come meet other young adults with disabilities who are interested in making a difference in their community.

“We at Able South Carolina are extremely excited to be able to get this Leadership Group up and running!” said EQUIP Coordinator Rachel Kaplan. “This will be a very fun and interactive atmosphere where young adults with all forms of disabilities will be able to learn the mission of the EQUIP Leadership Group and what goals we have for this upcoming year, including events and ideas we have planned already. This will be a fun way to meet people face-to-face and instill some goal setting and self-esteem skills in the young adults that attend, as well as give them the opportunity to be active members of this group if they so choose.”

One local individual with a disability is particularly looking forward to the upcoming EQUIP event. Derrick Means — who has cerebral palsy — refuses to let his disability stop him from achieving his goals. Means graduated from USC Union in May with a Bachelor of Organizational Leadership degree.

“Just because a person may have a disability does not mean they cannot do it,” Means said. “If they put their minds to it, they can do anything they want to do.”

Means said he got involved with NYLN and EQUIP in October because he wants to be a leader in the community and among people with disabilities.

“This is an opportunity to let the disability community know if I can do it having cerebral palsy, anybody can do it,” Means said. “I want to see everybody come together as one and connect.”

Means said he went to Columbia in October to meet with the NYLN through Able South Carolina. He was asked to come up with goals for 2014, and his goals included educating the community and bringing awareness to disabilities. Means said he wants to encourage others to advocate for themselves, letting family friends and others know about their needs.

Means’ involvement with the program requires him to participate in community service, and on Dec. 16, he spoke to a group of students with disabilities at Gaffney High School. He said he talked with the young adults about how to prepare for an interview and what an interview setting looks like.

“This has been a wonderful experience for me because it’s teaching me about leadership — how to communicate with others so when I do go into a job, I will be prepared to deal with different elements,” Means said.

Means said the upcoming EQUIP kick-off party will be beneficial to all young adults with any type of disability.

“We are hoping for a really great turn out and would love to empower young adults with disabilities to feel confident, knowledgeable and proud to advocate for themselves and others within their communities!” Kaplan added.

Anyone interested in attending the free event may use one of the following contact methods to RSVP by Friday, Jan. 10: email rkaplan@able-sc.org; phone (864) 235-1421; or TTY (864) 235-8798.

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