Can it be??!!
Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!
While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years. You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.
Together we have
- fought injustices & discrimination
- encouraged others to find & raise their voices
- re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
- assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
- found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.
We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.
But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.
This month we are overjoyed to bring you some thoughts from a few more of Networks’ folks…. their perspective on what Networks is! ♥
What is Networks to me?
Wow! So many thoughts come to mind – and memories. I first became involved with Networks while “looking for another way” to do things. I knew there had to be better ways to interact with, teach, and support people than I was being shown. At Networks I found people with similar values, passions, and beliefs. All people should be valued, and be fully included in their communities, and are deserving of respect. I came to as many Networks’ trainings as I could.
When I was approached about coming to work at Networks I was ecstatic… Unfortunately, events in my life made it impossible for me to accept at that time. The folks at Networks understood, and I was thrilled to be able to join them a year later. I started out helping those who were moving out of Embreeville State Hospital to envision and plan for lives in their new communities. It was a privilege to be part of this project.
When surgery resulted in my losing the use of my voice for some time (a little over a year) my friends / colleagues stepped up to help me find a way to have a voice. They also stood by me while I explored new areas of expertise, and began working with the technology at Networks. As a result of these experiences I discovered a new passion – ensuring the accessibility of technology for all users. Networks supported me as I explored this new passion, and secured my Masters degree (with Networks’ help and support) in Information Technology in Education.
This October it will be 22 years since I came to Networks. I have not only found like-minded colleagues, but I have also found friends and family. We have worked and played together, sharing smiles, laughter, and tears. Thank you Networks for not only providing a place to support people the way they should be, but also for providing an environment where people are encouraged to learn, grow, and explore new experiences / passions, while working together to make our communities welcoming to all!
(Diane Kehoe: Director of Technology Services)
Networks is… creating opportunities for everyone to be the best version of themselves. I first learned of Networks when I was an intern with the Philadelphia Department of Intellectual disAbility Services. Initially, this internship was supposed to last two months. However, thanks to Networks’ programming and support, I was able to stay on and work in the department through graduation.
Over the course of my two and a half years at IDS, I had the chance to participate in disability rights workshops, help develop employment and Lifesharing PATHs, and create written and video spotlights on a number of self advocates. These work experiences have had a lasting impact on my life. In fact, after leaving IDS I worked for a Supports Coordination Organization (SCO) in Philadelphia for three years. If I had not worked at IDS or worked with Networks, that would not have happened.
Without Networks, and the incredible people I’ve met through the organization, I wouldn’t be who I am today. When the Networks team comes together to solve a problem, they do so with a level of creativity, thoughtfulness and understanding that is par to none. Because of my experiences with Networks, I make a conscious effort to always use inclusive language and strive to include everyone – regardless of ability – in conversations and in projects. They have truly left a positive impact on my life that has made me a better person, employee, wife, sister and friend.
Networks is working to make the world a better place. I consider myself lucky to be a part of the organization – and am thankful for everything they do to support individuals with disabilities, like my brother, Arik. Here’s to 35 more years of groundbreaking work!
(Alyssa Shaffer: Wise Guide and Board Member)
Years ago, I visited the Valley Forge office and noticed the lovely collection of wands on Rosa’s desk. Of course, a wand is often associated with magic, which is easy to associate with the work of Networks, but there are other definitions of the word “wand” that I think work too.
When a wand is a device admitting a beam, Networks supports you in finding your path.
When a wand is a target in archery, Networks is a place that people have grown to know as a place to come for answers and support.
When a wand is a security device, Networks will listen fully and respectfully.
When a wand is a beauty tool, Wholistic Practices provides centering, physical and emotional healing through reiki and other types of bodywork.
When a wand is a stick giving length or leverage, Networks’ many training opportunities give our communities confidence and knowledge to live fuller lives.
Networks is a place to go with a question, and to be empowered to find answers. Networks is wands.
(Gerry Arango: Longtime Friend, Supporter, and Consultant)
Networks is comforting, loving, joyful, and easy….. and yet also struggling, demanding, hard, and sometimes riddled with gut-wrenching questions. Networks is a kaleidoscope of shared dreams. Networks is swirling blurry visions and crystal-clear pointed direct steps. Networks is hand-holding and hugging, while also kicking-in-the-butt to action. Networks is outspoken and humble, shining examples and always most comfortable in the background. Networks is an amazingly 25 year old ride of truth. Networks is my family, my home, my history, my present, and my forever future.
(Rosa McAllister, Co-Founder and Organizational Advisor)
Networks is more than a job. It’s family. I have been connected with Networks since 2000. I was looking for work at the time. OVR got me in contact with Networks and I started looking for work. There were quite a few times that I almost was able to get a job but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. There were many trials and tribulations but one constant was always Networks.
It took over four years to finally get my job. Getting my job changed my life. Before my job I didn’t really do anything except watch TV and movies. It gave me purpose and I felt like a productive citizen. It made my life complete. Getting my first paycheck felt amazing. The most important part of Networks are the people. The people at Networks are what makes it what it is.
(Andrew Vizuete: IT Support and Service Specialist)
So what is Networks? As I sit here writing, I am just about to leave an inclusive surfing event in North Wildwood. While at this event, I really saw what Networks is……..
Networks is about dreaming to live life to its fullest, whatever that may be. This came to me as I stood in the water, watching and listening to a young lady waiting for her turn to surf. She says to her mom that she wants to be alone in the water. Her mom says no, she will stay together. The look of sadness was evident on this young lady’s face. A few minutes later, it was her turn to surf. Finally, she got a wave and for those few seconds, as she rode the wave in, she was in the ocean on her own. Her smile was contagious. There was a moment of pride when she said, “I did it, I did it by myself!” and the smile on her mom as she said, “Yes, yes you did!” Networks is about EVERYONE living the life of their choice. Living with whom they want, living where they want, and working where they want.
(Joe Murphy: Supports and Technology Coordinator)