Submitted by the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center
Growing up in a small, remote island community is a unique experience, and even more so for young people with disabilities. There are limited recreational, transportation, and employment opportunities, in addition to a lack of social outlets. This inspired a handful of young adults to form the Young Adult Association of San Juan, a social group for young adults with disabilities. YAAS is intended to offer social gatherings that are inclusive and diverse, where members feel safe being themselves, and embraced in their differences.
YAAS started in the fall of 2019 through the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center and despite the pandemic, the group has only gathered more momentum in the last few months. Members now attend a weekly Chair Yoga class led by Katerina Wen and meet virtually once a week. Now that the group has a strong foundation they’ve decided to take on some community service projects in order to give back to Friday Harbor, particularly when people are feeling lonely and isolated.
February offered YAAS the perfect opportunity to perform a random act of kindness. The group partnered with Mullis Senior Center this past week to make over 80 Valentines to give to seniors and youth. Valentines will be distributed through the Meals on Wheels program and through the family resource center.
Additionally, YAAS members joined Disability Rights WA to voice their concerns over the lack of accessible public transportation across the state and on the island. Clayton Banry and Lili Light submitted testimonials about their experiences and are now being interviewed by state representatives. These inspiring young people are focused on the solutions beyond the problem and have suggested that Friday Harbor work towards having wheelchair accessible, subsidized public transportation for people with disabilities.
Supporting youth to become healthy, engaged young adults means offering opportunities for them to practice community service and learn to express their life experiences.
“I used to be afraid of social gatherings because of my disability,” Banry said. “YAAS has made me feel like a real part of something.”
Interested in supporting YAAS? Please reach out to Delphina Liles at the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center by calling 360-378-5246.