Ryan Cromwell: What it means to be a self-advocate, for me, is to speak up for yourself and just speak your mind.
Melanie Hecker: It means being able to stick up for yourself and your needs, and to be able to accomplish what you need to live in this world, in the community despite having a disability, mental health challenge, foster care involvement, or anything else that could put you at a disadvantage.
Xavier Skeeter: It means to speak up for yourself and not be shy.
Susan Steffek: The qualities that you need to have are knowing how to speak up for yourself, but for other people, but also getting to know them as well.
Alexander Simpson: What it means to be a self-advocate, to me, it means being able to get help when you need it, even if it’s something small like, say, I’m hungry. Being able to ask for something to eat. That’s one way of being a self-advocate.
Ryan Cromwell: I advocated for myself in school and work by talking to bosses and teachers.
Melanie Hecker: I go out of my way to put my needs out there, talk to my professors if I need to, build up my speaking and writing skills, take the initiative to look for proper career paths, and just taking initiative for what I need in general.
Susan Steffek: I am a part of the Rensselaer County Youth Advisory Council that I am currently the president of. I also volunteer in other places where there’s youth, like St. Catherine’s, community hospice, places like that.
Alexander Simpson: Basically, I’m a part of a program. I have my own apartment and I have someone come and check up on me. So when they come, I basically tell them, I need help with this, or I don’t know how to cook this. Can you teach me? All that sort of stuff.
Ryan Cromwell: Don’t be afraid to speak for yourself, speak up, and don’t let anybody bring you down. Just keep yourself motivated and speak your mind.
Alexander Simpson: You need to be, in a way, determined or enthusiastic about what you’re trying to do.
Melanie Hecker: Never give up. Never stop fighting for what you believe in.
Susan Steffek: You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are important.[music playing]