BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — A Lynn University graduate is helping area teens and college students understand and deal with disabilities. Read on for more from our friends at the Florida Youth Leadership Forum.
Juggling college courses, volunteer activities, hobbies and a girlfriend amounts to more than a full-time job. Jaime Torres—a 21-year-old recent graduate of Lynn University—does all of this and more. Diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, Jaime has shown no signs of letting the disorder slow him down or keep him from enjoying life to the fullest.
“I like walking, playing basketball, acting, doing my chores, working out my muscles and doing push-ups to get stronger,” said Jaime, also an avid fan of the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” movies, as well as the television show “Glee.” “I want to become a chef and a basketball player.”
Jaime’s long list of interests and goals not only exhibit his optimistic personality, but serves as inspiration for young people living with disabilities. The Florida Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) gave him this encouragement. In 2010, Jaime served as a junior staff member after participating as a first-time delegate in 2009.
“When I was junior staff member, I made a lot of friends; I liked helping the delegates,” Jaime said. “YLF is amazing and a blast. YLF is my home and my family.”
Late last month, Jaime again served as a mentor to nearly 50 high-school delegates coming to Tallahassee from across the state to participate in YLF. The week-long forum is hosted by The Able Trust, a statewide non-profit organization with the mission to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment. It is designed to teach students with disabilities about personal leadership through workshops, social activities and mentoring opportunities.
After participating in YLF, Jaime’s attitude and ability to speak up for himself greatly improved. Currently serving as a spokesperson for the Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization, Jaime has given speeches all over the state telling his story and promoting self-advocacy. Having graduated from Boca Raton High School in 2010, Jaime completed the transition program at Lynn University in May. This fall, he will move to Jacksonville to attend the University of North Florida where he will study Italian and Spanish languages.
Since YLF began 13 years ago, more than 500 students across Florida have traveled to Tallahassee with hopes of cultivating leadership, citizenship and social skills. Each year, YLF alumni eagerly return to the program as junior and senior staff members to share their experiences with the new YLF delegates.
Various events, such as an etiquette dinner and a career fair, equipped participants with the skills and knowledge needed to interview for jobs and be successful in the workforce. The career fair also gave the students a chance to meet face-to-face with employers in various career fields to learn about job options and employment opportunities.
In addition to professional training, students participated in a variety of social events – including meetings with dignitaries at the State Capitol. Formal events, along with fun activities like a dance and talent show, allowed them to interact with each other on a personal level and gain long-lasting relationships.
“One of our goals of The Able Trust is to ensure that young people with disabilities have the skills and confidence they need to pursue college or a position in the workforce after high school, and we believe the Youth Leadership Forum helps to do just that,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “Students are given the tools and knowledge they need to go back into their communities and pursue their goals. YLF is a life-changing experience for not only the students, but for the volunteers, mentors and businesses who participate as well.”
For more information about the Florida Youth Leadership Forum, visit http://www.floridaylf.org.