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Susan's Story

Susan's Story

Susan has been receiving Independent Living Support from Easterseals Midwest since August 2014.

She is proud of her townhome, her son Cameron, and the independent life she is living. Susan will be the first to tell you that everyone needs some help in life and considers the Independent Living Supports she receives a vital tool to living her best life.

Susan describes the Spring of 2020, when the COVID pandemic resulted in stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates, as the most troubling time in her life. As many of the supports Susan receives could not effectively be provided remotely, she was fearful of how she was going to receive the support she needed to maintain her life. According to Susan, it was the “best news ever” when her Independent Living team announced that in-person support services could remain active with heightened health and safety protocols.

While many people remained home and caught up on Netflix, Susan decided to spend her time and energy on work that has always been most meaningful to her: advocacy and civic engagement.

Susan’s story is one of struggle, challenges, and resilience. As a teenager, Susan came to Missouri after being made homeless due to the passing of her mother. Despite this, Susan enrolled herself in high school and earned her degree. She became a mother in 2007, when she had her son Cameron. Because of her own disability, she faced family members and doctors urging her to give Cameron up, but she wouldn’t budge. She advocated for herself and fought hard to keep him. She attributes these challenges to her passion for advocacy. She was even instrumental in ensuring that the termination of parental rights due to disability was changed.

During COVID, she resumed her membership in the People First chapter of St. Charles County and was voted in as president shortly after. Susan admits she was not a fan of public speaking but chose to take point on providing the chapter report during monthly St. Charles County Coalition membership meetings.

She enlisted the help of her Independent Living support team to learn how to manage video conferencing platforms as well as presentation etiquette and professionalism.

Susan’s skills grew and her fellow coalition members noticed her outgoing personality, sense of humor, and honest approach. “A welcome addition to the group,” “refreshing,” and “ray of sunshine” are just a few of the accolades given. Susan was asked to provide the mission moment at the June 21 board meeting of the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (DDRB). She provided a spotlight on the People First chapter’s 2021 awareness campaign “Save Our Staff” and sang the praises of service providers, funding boards, and the crucial supports they provide. Her presentation left few dry eyes in the crowd.

And her amazing accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed at Easterseals, either. Recognizing her dedication to advocacy, Susan was hired to be a Self-Determination in Action trainer. She now teaches courses to other people with disabilities on things like basic human rights, how to become a self-advocate, how to be a member of a committee or board, and more. And Susan’s efforts have now lead her to be awarded the Mental Health Champions’ award for 2021-2022.

Congratulations, Susan.

Hear more about Susan’s journey below.

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