MOORHEAD — A winter storm was brewing when Nicole Atherton welcomed The Forum into her pin-to-pin garden-level apartment. The colorfully decorated living room contained an antique wooden chest of drawers, a gift from his grandfather.
Her cheerful demeanor matched the mood of the room as she talked about her advocacy and recent honors as a 2022 Moorhead Human Rights Award recipient.
Her award from the Moorhead Human Rights Commission helps her feel like a “positive role model.” Success is achievable, but it takes hard work, Atherton said. increase.
As a member of the Regional Advisory Board of The Arc West Central Minnesota, an organization that works for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, she has been an active advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.
According to her mother, Donna Atherton, over the years she has met with members of Congress and advocated for herself and those with intellectual disabilities. I am proud of all the work I do for
“My mother was an inspiration to me,” said Nicole Atherton, who has attended conferences with her mother for 15 years.
Nicole Atherton is responsible for helping Minnesota legislators formulate policy as an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.
“If you can’t put your face to something like that, it’s easy to dismiss it,” said Donna Atherton.
Marisa Bengtson-Loerzel, Regional Community Coordinator for The Arc, said Nicole Atherton has played a strong role in developing relationships with state policymakers. She added that Nicole Atherton invited legislators for coffee to discuss issues important to her and other people with disabilities.
“We need more leaders like Nicole,” Bengsson-Roselle said. “Leaders most impacted and experienced by these issues”
As a woman with Down syndrome, Nicole Atherton has been involved with The Arc for 15 years, her mother said. She began her work with state legislators after participating as a partner in self-development workshops and policy-making sessions held by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.
According to Donna Atherton, much of Ark’s work is aimed at reducing disability discrimination and discrimination against people with disabilities.
“I’m trying to stop the r-word,” said Nicole Atherton. “It’s disrespectful and it hurts people deeply.”
According to The Arc’s website, the words “retard” and “retard” have become derogatory, derogatory, and demeaning in their use. We have evolved the terminology to
Nicole Atherton, on the other hand, enjoys traveling when not volunteering for The Arc and has been on six cruises to Hawaii and Europe.
Her favorite place is England. Because, “I can speak the language well,” she joked.
She is also busy working on her dream job as a barista. This job is also due to her cherished friendships with her colleagues.
“I have a huge passion for coffee,” laughed Nicole Atherton. She is a caffeine lover.
Eleven years ago, she lived alone, but was able to get an apartment in Moorhead thanks to Ark’s housing services program. Her father helped her obtain a Section 8 voucher through the Village Family Service Center.
People with Down’s syndrome have different challenges, said Nicole Atherton. “It’s important that people don’t get out of their homes and isolate themselves in their own environment,” she noted.
Staying involved in the community has also helped her manage her anxiety and depression.
“I think people need to get out more, volunteer more, be part of the community,” she said. She also volunteers at a church with her mother and is a church choir manager.
She hopes to one day get a paid position within The Arc or even co-chair a committee, encouraging people to get more involved with organizations they care about.
The social aspect of volunteering is not only important in improving people’s mental health, but volunteering provides a positive environment and a place to make good friends, said Nicole Atherton.
“Volunteering really helps and is a good idea for the community,” she said.
Under the guidance of the Regional Advisory Board, The Arc will visit the Capitol on Disability Advocacy Day on February 14, Bengtson-Loerzel said.
Advocates will discuss issues important to the disability community with lawmakers, she said. I have to live in ,” she said.