Green Bay – By the time her son turned 7, Saphronia Parnell had a diagnosis that confirmed that he was different from his peers.
She learned that her son had autism and that they would both need to work hard to get an education that suited his needs. Soon after his diagnosis, she realized that systemic barriers were interfering with the health and quality of life of her son and other children.
Parnell was not going to accept it.
She turned to Wisconsin FACETS (an acronym for Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support) to learn about laws that protect people with disabilities.
“The more a son grows up and has access to laws and means and resources, he can see[his mother’s]struggles, so he can share that with the next parent behind him,” Parnell said. “And I know I’ve been there.”
Parnell has put disability rights at the center of her world. She stood at the table during her board meeting to make her voice heard. As a volunteer guardian of adults with disabilities in Brown County, she has filed a large amount of papers before judges and doctors. “If it hadn’t been documented, it wouldn’t have happened.
Her commitment to disability rights has paid off. literally. In December, the Wisconsin Commission on Developmental Disabilities awarded Parnell her $5,000 Sparks grant from her 2022 to her 2023 years. The grant, awarded to her five in Wisconsin this year, will provide more social and meaningful connections for people with disabilities by adding comprehensive programs. One of her goals for the grant is to improve overall attitudes towards people with disabilities.
With the goal of making the city of Green Bay a more inclusive and welcoming place for people with disabilities, Parnell has put together several plans suitable for both youth and civic leaders.
“They don’t know how much they empowered me that day.”
Parnell learned early on that he needed to be a leader in his community. She’s been a Green Bay resident since 2003. rice field.
The breakthrough moment in her activist career came early on with her son’s diagnosis. She was scheduled to meet with her son’s school to discuss his Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is intended to provide additional support and assistance to students with additional learning needs. Parnell was concerned that her son had her IEP set. for instead of her When Girlfriend.
What the school had expected was a brief meeting, but Parnell decided to work through the program, starting with “the first page” in the group. They took a break for lunch, but it took them a school day to speak through the program.
“They don’t know how much they empowered me that day,” Parnell said. “From that day on, I started educating and advocating for other parents.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to experience social isolation and loneliness than those without disabilities and bear the brunt of structural barriers to needs such as employment and transportation.
Members of the state’s Commission on Developmental Disabilities have heard loud and clear from residents across Wisconsin: Social isolation is debilitating.
Jenny Neugart, grassroots community organizer on the board, said Sparks Grant has focused specifically on isolation and intersectionality over the past few years. Experience discrimination and oppression for any discussion.
“The social isolation that people with disabilities experience has always been bad, but the pandemic has really intensified this sense of isolation that people[with disabilities]have,” Neugert said. Grant is really focused on how communities can become more inclusive and people with disabilities can get to know their neighbors, get out and feel part of the community.”
Parnell has worked specifically to address the disparities felt by families with disabilities in the Green Bay area during the pandemic, including getting more people vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, Neugert said. .
“She’s done a great job reaching out to the diverse families in the community and had some good ideas about how to approach community conversations.
How Parnell will use Spark grants in Green Bay
While jewelry making may not seem like therapy on the surface, many wellness-minded organizations are turning to the craft to soothe both the body and mind. That was Parnell’s idea when she suggested using some of the gold to make jewelry for young people.
It’s a way of connecting things that are tangible and existent in a way that doesn’t draw attention to someone’s disability. can do.
“The whole point is to put them together so you can see what they have in common and what they don’t,” Parnell said. When you’re focused and you’re looking over there to see something being created, there’s your mind, your mind is like, ‘Oh, why is she doing that?’ ”I don’t think” is she saying that? Your mind is focused on what is happening in front of you. ”
Parnell recently finalized a partnership with Urban Cultural Arts at 906 E. Walnut St. There she hosted her six-week jewelry-making club, which she hosted twice, starting in early March, targeting young people from her 10 to her 15 years old, from the beginning of March when she was 14 years old to when she was 17 years old. intend to do something. Young people with and without disabilities have the opportunity to work with beads, string and wire.
“We talked informally, got to know each other, and speakers came and talked about self-confidence and loving yourself, putting yourself first, and what’s important to you, what you’re worth. Speak… yourself,” Parnell said.
Parnell focuses on empowering teenagers through disability discussions and activities, but there are three areas she knows need improvement for people with disabilities in Green Bay: employment, Focus on recreation and healthy relationships.
Parnell does not believe that prejudices against people with disabilities are necessarily conscious. So part of her mission is to bring awareness to the public. For example, employers may want to hire more people with disabilities, but fear the liability factor. She envisions hosting a panel of her managers at businesses that have hired people with disabilities and talking to other employers who are “concerned about disability.”
“People are so obsessed with disability that they no longer see it,” Parnell said.
She has begun discussions with the organizers of the United Way of Brown County and the Green Bay Packers Foundation about addressing issues related to employment and inclusive recreation, and hopes to get the mayor’s office involved soon. increase.
Parnell loves collaborating because it brings creativity and ingenuity. She wants to see how the city can work together and be creative about recreational activities, especially those with disabilities.
“I value being creative, collaborating and partnering,” Parnell said. “One person cannot do it all. You don’t need all the glory. You just need to make it happen.”
She will work with We All Rise: African American Resource Center, Green Bay Area Public Schools, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, and Go Girl! We invite individuals and organizations to provide life coaching and help make Green Bay a more inclusive place for people with disabilities.
Natalie Eilbert covers mental health issues for USA TODAY NETWORK-Central Wisconsin. She welcomes story tips and feedback. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or view her Twitter profile at her URL below. @natalie_eilbertIf you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741 with “HOPELINE”. Please give me.