The Future: A Theme from the 6th Annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum

“We are replacing ourselves” Jessica Mancino, Program Director at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

As I reviewed the video footage captured by Deborah Warfield, Founder of Media Arts Academy, several times people talked about the fact that by including people with disabilities throughout the community, particularly in youth serving organizations, we are impacting our future . Here are several comments form Forum Attendees that illustrate this idea:

Tinashe Chaponda, WMU Student and Founder of FOCUS Kalamazoo Volunteers

* He learned that everyone belongs everywhere instead of creating separate programs – include people with disabilities in programs that exist

* Someday Tinashe plans to have his own Human Resources Firm. The Forum changed how he views employment for people with disabilities.

* It’s our job to be prepared for the future

Justin, Community Member

* When we work together we can make a change in the community so that people are not mistreated

* We need to all get along to make the community safer

Matt, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

* He knows that by the Boys and Girls Club being inclusive there has long term impact with the youth served. They will be different as adults and spread the work.

* Important to understand that it is not always easy because of past practices of pushing people with disabilities aside – inclusion goes against the ideas of how we’ve always done it.

Jessica Mancino, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo

* At the Boys and Girls Club, they see themselves replacing themselves with the youth and empowering them to be leaders at the Club.

* Youth understand the importance of diversity at the Club and in the community when they are adults.

“We are planting the seeds of trees whose shade we may never sit in.”

Originated from a Greek Proverb