Isaac Shannon and the SRC Youth Council

Isaac Shannon has been advocating for education almost as long as he has been a student. Growing up in San Diego, he learned to speak up about adjusting his IEP and participate in traditional classrooms. After moving to Bend during high school, he looked beyond the classroom and connected with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. With that experience, he was one of the first to jump on board with a new, statewide youth council, organized by the Statewide Rehabilitation Council.

“I love being part of building this council. The more representation we can get locally and at the state, the more we all understand how people with disabilities interact in society,” he said.

Shannon, age 21, is a COCC student and a graduate of Mountain View High School. After graduation, he participated in Bend-La Pine Schools Transition Co-op and Pre-ETS services. At the same time, he stepped up his advocacy work by joining the District’s Equity Coalition, and by public speaking on gender identity issues. So when Pre-ETS coordinator Toni DePeel told Shannon about the new Youth Council, it seemed like a natural fit.

 

Giving Youth a Voice

In Oregon, VR depends on a Statewide Rehabilitation Council (SRC) for feedback on its programs and policies. The SRC members are appointed by the governor and represent consumers, businesses, and advocates from the disability community. The broad range of backgrounds on the council was missing one perspective: the voice of youth experiencing disabilities.

“We know that teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 make up the biggest demographic of VR service users. That means it’s so important for their voice to be heard,” said DePeel. While the Youth Council mission and structure is still in the works—the SRC has empowered the Youth Council members, like Shannon, to determine the goals and projects they want to work on.

Out of the many issues that the Youth Council may target, Shannon is most interested in looking at education. “I see opportunities to revise the way we look at education for people with disabilities. I want to broaden resources for people who want to pursue higher education,” said Shannon.

 

The next generation of disability advocates

“This truly impacts what happens across the state. How often do teens get a chance to do that?” said Desiree Berry, Pre-ETS coordinator for Central Oregon. According to Berry, the work doesn’t just help the SRC, the Youth Council members can also flex their leadership muscles as they learn advocacy and communication skills. “Another bonus is that this work is great for building up a resume or college application,” added Berry.

Just as importantly, Youth Council builds community. The youth volunteers meet new friends, peers who are also interested in advocacy. They also connect with potential mentors from the SRC. Eventually, the SRC would like to see Youth Council representatives from every area of the state. Meetings are held online for now, but the council will gather in person when health guidelines allow.

To Shannon, this is an opportunity that other young adults with disabilities should take advantage of, and the more participants the better. “The council needs a wide range of backgrounds to be effective. Everyone has a story that can contribute—our personal experiences can help to expose gaps in the system. By sharing our stories, we help the people who make decisions have a deeper understanding.”

This will be Shannon’s final year as a Youth Council member. He’s been accepted to California State University in the Los Angeles area, where he’ll join the Global Studies program. Through this program Shannon plans to realize his goals to learn about policy-making and equity beyond national borders, and to travel as much as possible along the way.

Want to learn more about joining the SRC Youth Council ?

Download the information here, or contact Toni DePeel at (971-600-8358).