Training the Next Generation of Self-Advocate Leaders in Florida (FL UCEDD)

By Jairo Arana

September 9, 2018

It was President John F. Kennedy who said "when written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." With this in mind, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council with its sister agencies, the UM Mailman Center UCEDD, USF Florida Center for Inclusive Communities UCEDD, and Disability Rights of Florida contracted with the University of Delaware to develop the Florida DD Network Collaborative Leadership Program. Its purpose is to prepare the next generation of leaders. Some sobering facts, stated in a study by the University of Delaware: "over 50% of the CEOs surveyed did not have a succession plan for their organizations. Almost without exception, the leadership crisis has been a major topic of focus at recent conferences for developmental disability professionals."

The University of Delaware has a long history of developing leadership programs, nationally, and has custom-designed this program as a statewide initiative for Florida. Ten participants were selected, comprised of self-advocate leaders and organizational leaders in the developmental disabilities field. The participants will have scheduled meetings with coaches, who guide them with their personal growth and professional leadership skills. Mentors will also guide the cohort on a group project that will address a gap affecting people with disabilities in the state of Florida.

One of the participants of the inaugural cohort is Jairo Arana, self-advocate and Clinical Program Coordinator at the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development. "I'm happy to have this opportunity to make a difference. I get to meet fascinating people doing fantastic things. We learn teamwork and apply those lessons to our group project, which will address a gap affecting our community."

The program started this month and will meet over a nine-month period in Tampa, Florida. It is an opportunity for future leaders to network, work together and advocate for change while working on their persons and professional growth as leaders.