Before 2020, Iowa's LEND program did not have a Self-Advocacy Coordinator serving as Core Faculty for trainees in the program. Before 2019, Iowa's UCEDD, the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), did not have a Self-Advocacy Coordinator as a member of its staff. Before 2017, Iowa LEND had never had a Self-Advocacy Trainee. But since 2016, when he became a member of the UCEDD's Community Advisory Committee, CDD has had Ed Esbeck. For the past year, since he was hired as CDD's Self-Advocacy Coordinator in the fall of 2019, Esbeck has championed inclusion for Iowa LEND, and has led the way for more self-advocates to become leaders, as he has.

Esbeck spent two years as a LEND trainee. During his first year, he participated in and reflected on seminars, clinic observations and outreach activities. As his understanding of interdisciplinary clinical care grew, so did his empathy for families and his self-insight. As a second-year, medium-term trainee, he brought this knowledge and insight, and his developing leadership skills to LEND, where he took on the role of mentor to new self-advocacy trainees.

After graduation, Esbeck received the 2019 Healy Leadership Award, presented to a LEND trainee who will carry on the legacy of Dr. Al Healy. Dr. Healy's lifelong commitment to the field of developmental disabilities continues to guide the mission and work of Iowa's UCEDD. The award gave Esbeck the opportunity to go back to Uganda where he was born, to learn about disabilities there, and to see how he might help people with disabilities in other parts of the world by sharing his story and experiences. While there, he worked with Light for the World in Kampala, and Soft Power Education in Jinja, to talk to different audiences about living with a disability and the importance of special education programs.

As Self-Advocacy Coordinator for the UCEDD, Esbeck is engaged in a variety of programs and projects. In addition to his work with the LEND program, he recently served as a trainer for the UCEDD's first Youth Leadership Academy, in which participants learned about goal setting, self-determination, civic engagement and social networking. He supports the CDD Transition Clinic, a joint program of the UCEDD and CDD's Tertiary Care Clinic. And during the past half year, Esbeck has played a major role in keeping CDD open and safe through the coronavirus public health crisis, serving as a screener for staff, patients and families entering the building for work and clinic appointments.

"Ed's story is quite powerful and empowering for people with disabilities, advocates and businesses alike," said Judy Warth, Employment Training Specialist and Work Experience Coach for the Iowa City Community District. She has worked with Esbeck since he was a student at Iowa City High.

Esbeck has learned to work with organizations and agencies that serve people with disabilities in the community. "ILEND helped me to grow my leadership and advocacy skills," said Esbeck. "I love working with and mentoring new self-advocacy trainees to help them grow their own leadership and advocacy skills through LEND."

Those who would like to know more about his story and experiences can get in touch with Esbeck at [email protected].

Those who would like to learn more about transition and integrated employment activities at Iowa's UCEDD can get in touch with Judy Warth at [email protected].

Those who would like to learn more about Iowa LEND's self-advocacy activities can get in touch with Mike Hoenig at [email protected].