A mixture of shock and pride spread across Ty Ferguson’s face when her name was called at the Synergy Conference with the Ohio Self-Determination Association in Columbus. Ferguson is one of just four ESDY Award winners chosen statewide this year and revealed at the 3-day annual event that aims to connect people with developmental disabilities, their family members, professionals and staff of county boards of DD and providers of services.
Ferguson said, “I was very shocked! I said’ Oh, my gosh!’”
Ferguson had no idea she had been nominated for the prestigious award that recognizes efforts in teaching others self-advocacy. However, the other participants at the Synergy Conference were in on the surprise. Logan County residents Sheena Braun, Josh Rice and Logan County Board of DD Community First Coordinator Kelli Bader attended the conference to support Ferguson. They also learned about topics ranging from forming healthy relationships, to working with new technologies.
Bader nominated Ferguson for the ESDY Award earlier this fall. Bader explains that ever since Ty experienced initial self-advocacy training about a year ago at Project STIR (Steps Toward Independence and Responsibility), she’s been vigorously trying to train and spread the word on speaking for yourself.
“These tools have made a big difference in Ty’s life. She lives a purpose-driven life now. Her goal is to train every single person in Logan County to advocate for themselves and others, “ Bader wrote in her EDSY Award nomination.
Through a number of training sessions and seminars, Ty has trained more than 75 individuals in Logan and surrounding counties. Her efforts have also earned her a position as a Project STIR trainer and a member of the Council of Ohio Leaders, which helps to guide decisions made by members of the Ohio Self-Determination Association. Ferguson recently presented at a seven-county workshop in Piqua, led a transitional aged youth training course with students from Bellefontaine High School and is planning several other training sessions at her church and other venues.
Bader says becoming a self-advocate has certainly benefited Ferguson in more ways than one.
“As an ally for the advocates in Logan County, I have seen an amazing difference in Ty since she attended the initial Project STIR training. She started a weight loss blog and it is posted on the Logan County Board of DD’s website. She has currently lost 24 pounds. She has also been trained on Healthy Lifestyles by the University of Cincinnati and voluntarily trains others on Friday evenings to advocate for a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Her self-esteem has risen and she takes much better care of herself.”
Ferguson says after spending so much time training others to speak for themselves, it was nice to be recognized with the ESDY Award, but she know she must not lose focus.
“Because they (individuals with DD) have something to say and they’re not always heard.”
Submitted by the Logan County Board of DD.