Many times we encounter people around us but we don’t know of the good things they do in and for our community. This monthly column will spotlight people of all abilities who are our friends and neighbors. It will shed some light on the positive and kind achievements we are making as a community.
Carrie Martinez is passionate about inclusion and the fire in her heart led her to start a program called “Your Best Self”. Your Best Self (YBS) came to fruition because Carrie had worked with high school age people living with disabilities and found there were undiscovered opportunities for young adults of all abilities while in school and after graduation.
The mission of YBS is to help people with various disabilities and barriers to become the best version of themselves. They do this by providing life and social skills with workshops and one on one coaching, job readiness with mentoring, job shadowing, and fostering community inclusion with our community wide events.
Carrie has been an advocate for people with disabilities for as long as she can remember. “I recall getting into disagreements in middle school with other students using the “R word” and as an adult, my passion has grown because I’m a fierce believer in equality and inclusion. Everyone just wants to be treated the same. Everyone wants to be their best self”, stated Martinez.
Even as a start-up, YBS has experienced some great moments. An example of this is Austin Gaines. Austin had never given a speech outside of a small classroom project, but he was willing to step outside of his comfort zone and be a part of YBS’s “People of Pickaway” event last summer. With some coaching and support from YBS, he stood in front of 150 people to tell his personal story. This, in turn, lit a spark of interest for public speaking for him. Austin is now active in Pickaway Toastmasters and has went through self-advocacy training with Project STIR. These experiences have boosted his confidence to tackle other goals such as obtaining his driver’s license, gaining employment and later this year, moving into his own apartment.
“Austin was already an amazing young man, we were just able to give him a platform to allow him to see that himself,” shared Martinez.
The People of Pickaway event highlights community members of various abilities and shines a spotlight on the best version of themselves. The event reminds us that we have so much in common rather than focusing on our differences. It is a night of inspiration and inclusion that includes refreshments, cash bar, silent auction and wine pull. This year’s event will have taken place on September 12th at Rhoads Market.
When I asked Carrie what inclusion means to her she shared this: “Inclusion seems very simple to me, which is why I sometimes have a hard time understanding why it is even something we have to advocate for. It is a no brainer. We should treat and include all people in the same way. Regardless of ability, race, sexuality, religion or ethnicity. We are all humans and all have value and an important voice.”
If you are interested in assisting YBS as a volunteer, mentor or fundraiser, you can do so through their website at www.ybstribe.org or check them out on Facebook and Instagram. You can also email Carrie Martinez directly at [email protected]
Heather Foll grew up just outside of Kingston and is an alumnus of Logan Elm High School. She is a current student of psychology at Ohio Christian University. Heather is the Community Connections Coordinator with the Pickaway County DD Board. She serves on the Pickaway County Special Olympics Board, is a member of the Circleville Noon Rotary, a member of the 2018 Pickaway County Fellows and enjoys spending her time writing and being a book worm.