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Brenda and Umi: INCLUDEnyc Empowered Us

June 23, 2020
Community Voices
A Black mother and her daughter with a disability hug tightly with their heads tilted towards each other.

“Through Project Possibility, I’ve seen Umi grow and become more independent. During this difficult time, she’s still learning, socializing, and planning for the future,” Brenda explained.

Brenda first discovered the organization at the INCLUDEnyc Fair, which convenes nearly 100 disability services providers each year. There, Brenda spoke to a member of the INCLUDEnyc youth team and afterwards, helped her daughter Umi apply to INCLUDEnyc’s Project Possibility program, which works one-on-one with transition-aged youth to set goals and prepare for transition to adulthood. 

Umi stopped by INCLUDEnyc’s office to meet with an educator and get started on goal planning. Then, COVID-19 happened. Fortunately, INCLUDEnyc began to provide the Project Possibility program online. INCLUDEnyc’s youth team continued one-on-one sessions by video conference, provided group trainings, as well as weekly get-togethers with all the young people in the program called “FriYAYs.” Umi was making friends and building her independence with financial literacy, travel training, and learning about the professional workplace.

“This experience with INCLUDEnyc has empowered my daughter and empowered me too. I’m usually very protective and whenever Umi joined an online session with INCLUDEnyc or a group of her peers in the program, I had to let her go. Umi navigated the Zoom sessions, socialized, and learned new skills,” Brenda explained. “She did it on her own. Umi gets right in there and advocates for herself.”

This June, Umi participated in her virtual graduation from the Hallen School in New Rochelle. “I feel pretty good about this. I feel so accomplished,” she beamed. Umi has a busy summer planned through continued work with the INCLUDEnyc team, virtual summer camp, dance and music programs, and finding the next full-time program to help her further prepare for the future. 

Within the next year, Umi plans to train for a career in cosmetology. Her advice to other people? “Always believe in yourself.”

INCLUDEnyc’s Project Possibility program provides intensive support for youth who are transitioning into adult life. This program is made possible with lead funding from The Taft Foundation, Con Edison, and the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, among other funders.