2023 SOAR Conference, October 27-29, 2023, Marriott Kansas City Overland Park, 10800 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, Kansas, 66210. Logo: SOAR Conference 2023: To the stars through difficulty. A circular blue image of a pair of white wings soaring across the sky, leaving behind a trail of stars.


2023 SOAR Conference Schedule

Friday, October 27, 2023


5:00 PM-9:00 PM

Registration Open


6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Welcome Reception


This reception is an informal gathering for attendees to meet and greet and hang out.


Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks will be available for attendees.


Saturday, October 28, 2023


7:30 AM-9:00 AM



9:00 AM-9:30 AM

Opening Ceremony


9:30 AM-10:20 AM

Keynote Speaker


Advocacy: It’s in ALL of Us

Advocacy is what it takes to change the current situation. And if we want to make big changes, it might just take a revolution!  But before beginning the journey of transformation, we need a shared understanding of the terms “advocate” and “revolution” and what it means to effect real, lasting change. We need to agree on the destination; what will it look like when we get there? How will we know we have accomplished the goal?  

What is an advocate? What is the revolution? How do we help people to advocate for themselves and others? As a noun, an advocate is defined as “one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group.” But what exactly does that look like? And, how will we know we have joined the revolution, defined as “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something”?

Everyone has the capacity to advocate and to effect real, sustainable change for people with disabilities and their communities.  Everyone has a place in the revolution that will change the course of people’s lives all across our country.  Join Emmanuel Jenkins, nationally recognized motivational speaker, founder, and CEO of the non-profit organization, We Stand 4 Something, Inc. as he shares his wealth of knowledge and lived experience to help us clarify what it means to advocate and how we can become a part of the revolution to change the current situation for people with disabilities.


Emmanuel Jenkins

Emmanuel Jenkins is the founder of a nonprofit organization called We Stand 4 Something. His organization supports individuals with disabilities and their families. Emmanuel is employed by the state of Delaware, where he works full-time for the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council as a Community Relations Officer. Emmanuel serves on many Boards and Commissions, locally and nationally. He is the chair of the state of Delaware’s Rehabilitation Council, the chair of the Delaware Employment First Oversight Commission, and the vice chair of the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Services Advisory Committee. Emmanuel graduated from the Partners in Policymaking program in 2014. Emmanuel recently became a member of the Advisory Committee for the Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance. He is also the chair of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) Self-Advocacy Committee. After completing his LEND cohort, Emmanuel Became a LEND Faculty Member for the University of Delaware, Self-Advocacy Discipline. Emmanuel married his wife and 2009. He is the proud father of a 17-year-old; Emmanuel is also a motivational speaker with over 20 years of experience. Emmanuel hopes to hold a seat in Congress in the near future.
Emmanuel Jenkins, an African American man in a green shirt, sitting in a wheelchair.

10:30 AM-11:20 AM

Breakout Sessions 



Kansas (KS)

Including Self-Advocates on Research Teams


Presented by Brad Linnenkamp, Ryan Henley and Ben Edwards
Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities


During this presentation, we will talk about ways self-advocates can be involved in the research process as researchers not just as participants. We will describe two projects where self-advocates were involved as research team members and helped guide the research.


Missouri (MO)

Getting To Your Good LIfe


Presented by Susan Parker and David Forbes
People First of Missouri, Institute for Human Development-UMKC


Charting My LifeCourse introduces self-advocates to the building blocks of the Charting the LifeCourse (CtLC) framework and exploring their goals and vision for a Good Life. It is designed to teach individuals with disabilities how they can use the tools in their own lives, including facilitating their formal planning process (for services), and helping them to achieve their goals outside of the formal service systems.


Nebraska (NE)

Legislative Bill 39: Putting Self-Advocacy into Action


Presented by Kathy Hoell, Mary Angus, and Brad Muerren
ADAPT-Nebraska, Disability Rights Nebraska


We will be talking about Nebraska Legislative Bill 39 which would create and require Disability Impact Statements for certain bills. We will talk about this bill as an example of self-advocacy action and show where the bill creates areas for self-advocates to educate policymakers. 


Kansas (KS)

Going to College – It’s More than Knowledge!


Presented by Carleigh LaVoy, Dana Lattin, and TBD
Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK), The University of Kansas Transition to Postsecondary Education (KU-TPE)


KU-TPE provides services for people with ID to go to KU. You take classes with everyone else, have career internships, and join student clubs – plus a WHOLE LOT MORE!  Learn more about KU-TPE from a few Jayhawk Alumni.

11:30 AM-1:00 PM

Lunch (Boxed Lunches)


12:30 PM-1:00 PM

Meet Your Keynote


1:00 PM-1:50 PM

Breakout Sessions



Missouri (MO)

Moving from Self-Advocates to Advocate Leaders!


Presented by Candace Cunningham, Kyla Mundwiller, Amanda Koch and Nicole Noblet
Institute for Human Development-UMKC, Advocate Leaders - Franklin County Missouri  


Learn from people with lived experience who have moved beyond 'Self-Advocates' and are becoming Advocacy Leaders. They will share how they are moving beyond their own personal self-determination and self-advocacy to helping other achieve what they have done. You will learn about Charting MyLifeCourse, Good LifeBooks, the COOL Group and Charting the LifeCourse Leadership Academy for Individuals and families.


Kansas (KS)

Healthy Relationships


Presented by Robyn Herzog and Colin Olenick
Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK)


People with IDD have the right to be in loving, safe, and enjoyable relationships. These relationships include family, friends, romantic, caregivers and roommate. In this session, we will talk about consent (permission), healthy and unhealthy boundaries in those relationships.  Self-advocates will share their experiences from different kinds of relationships.


Nebraska (NE)

Emergency Management: Including People with Disabilities


Presented by Brooke Anderson and Mary Angus
LEND Self-Advocate Trainee, People First of Nebraska Disability Policy Specialist


Disability creates unique circumstances that must to be included in community emergency preparedness. This presentation provides the expertise of People with Disabilites along with tools and check lists to help people with disabilities plan for and be prepared in emergency situations.

This presentation was originally developed with the assistance of Sophia Kazmierski, Self-Advocate, for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Team (NEMA)


Kansas (KS)

Empowering College Students Who Use AAC


Presented by Askia "Ski" Adams
Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities


This session will discuss ways colleges can support students who use augmentative communication as they pursue their chosen field of study. Presenters will also discuss the making of an educational video that aims to promote more empowering practices to support students who use AAC in college.

2:00 PM-2:50 PM

Breakout Sessions


Nebraska (NE)

Emerging Needs URC project: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion


Presented by Melanie Davis and Darien Todd
Nebraska UCEDD/ COLA AUCD Council


We are looking to involve the UCEDD network in a conversation around a potential new data point

demonstrating the participation of individuals with disabilities, including IDD, from historically underrepresented communities who participate in the development, implementation, or  evaluation of a UCEDD project.


Nebraska (NE)

YOU are the Expert of YOU!: How to Make an Impact using Your own Story


Presented by Jennifer James and Mary Angus
People First of Nebraska, Nebraska LEND


YOUR life stories and experiences are powerful weapons for advocacy! Seasoned Disability Self-Advocates will show you how they used the Five Ws of Advocacy - Who, What, Where, When, and Why to organize their own stories to advocate for change.


Missouri (MO)

Voting Rights, Voter Suppression, and You


Presented by Nicole Noblet
KC Roo People First of Missouri


People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States and elections can be won or lost when we choose to exercise our right to vote. Over the past decade there have been a lot of policy changes made with the goal of suppressing the right to vote among minorities, including people with disabilities; learn what your rights are as a voter and how politicians have made it harder to cast your ballot, and what you can do to fight for your rights and the rights of others to vote.


Iowa (IA)

A Journey I Won’t Finish and Employment in the Community  


Presented by Michael Gillette and Eric Mullins
University of Iowa Community Ambassador Program


Iowa advocates Michael Gillette and Eric Mullins will discuss their journeys in independent living and employment. 


Michael Gillette

My name is Michael Gillette. I live in my own apartment, and telling my story of moving into the community has been a big piece of my membership with the Community Living Ambassadors. I am now a father of a beautiful girl. This was a transition that taught me much and helped me learn more ways to live successfully in my community as a father. I have learned about “hidden secrets” like food stamps in connection with Amazon Prime and free transportation to the grocery store through the BI Waiver. There are so many services available, and I recommend that you learn what they are and to utilize as many of the services that you can.


Eric Mullins

My name is Eric Mullins. I have a mild intellectual disability. I have been a part of Community Living Ambassadors for 3 years. I have had many challenges throughout my life, but I continue to put my best foot forward. At the age of 18, I moved to Woodward Resource Center in Woodward, Iowa, and remained there until October 2019, when I then transitioned into Community Living with REM Iowa. I strive at being an advocate and a voice for people with disabilities. I want to continue being an advocate for inclusion and respect for people with disabilities. From transitioning from a locked facility to being able to live in the community has been a great accomplishment for me. I have worked hard to make sure I am safe in the community, and I have worked to acquire meaningful employment. In the future, I plan to attend events that help benefit and empower people with disabilities. I have been volunteering in my community: Hartman Reserve, Meals on Wheels, Food Bank, and more.

3:00 PM-3:50 PM

Breakout Sessions


Virginia (VA)

Understanding the History of the Disability Rights Movement


Presented by Richard Chapman
Partnership for People with Disabilities, VCU


This presentation will discuss the history of the disability rights movement and why it is important to understand history.  Important moments in history will be discussed that are relevant for key issues today.


Nebraska (NE)

What to Do if You Feel Like Your Rights Have Been Violated


Presented by Melanie Davis, Isaac Baldry, and Sarah Swanson, Isaac Baldry
UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute
Rural Institute University of Montana


In this session we intend to educate self-advocates on the Home and Community Based Settings  settings rule, individuals who receive supports from their state's Medicaid waiver (also sometimes called HCBS) have rights. Advocates will learn how to be involved in their state.


Kansas (KS)

Supported Decision-Making


Presented by Colin Olenick
 Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK)


Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is a way for people to make their own decisions with support from people they choose.  All people use supported decision-making to make decisions.  The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities and the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities have been working to increase awareness about using SDM.  This presentation will highlight practical tips on using SDM in daily life.


Missouri (MO)

Navigating Benefits


Presented by Stacie Amschler


Information and resources on navigating Medicare benefits.  Understanding your benefits and what you may qualify for, what to watch for and what to expect.  Know your options so you can make an informed decision!

4:00 PM-4:50 PM

H.I. = Having InterDependence Live Interactive Arts Workshop


Brian Be

JFK Partners


H.I. Workshops help people with and without disability play together. We say "Hi" in standard and in fun new ways - and we start connecting more, which helps advocacy. This is based on Improvisation, movement, and acting games.

5:30 PM-7:00 PM

Plated Dinner


Judy Heumann Tribute

7:00 PM-9:00 PM

Dance and Bingo!

Costume Time!

Saturday night’s festivities will be spooky-themed! Come dressed up and enjoy a night of music and bingo!


The band, The Penguins, will be rocking out for those who want to get on the dance floor and boogie!


If you want to take a moment away and relax, head on over to Bingo where you can win fun prizes!

The Penguins logo, a penguin in a bowtie twirling a drumstick.

Sunday, October 29, 2023


8:00 AM-9:30 AM

Light Breakfast

10:00 AM-10:50 AM

Keynote Speaker

Fire and Football


Phillip McGruder

Colin Olenick

Phillip McGruder

Phillip McGruder is a member of the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) and is a native of Kansas City, KS. Phillip is passionate about advocating for autism awareness and education. He also works with community partners to find ways to better support people with autism and their families.  As of January 2021, Phillip also serves on the Kansas Disability Caucus.  

Phillip McGruder, member of the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK), an African-American man with a curly brown beard wearing a black hoodie with a blue shirt underneath

Colin Olenick

Colin Olenick is SACK’s Legislative Liason, and tracks legislation that affects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in Kansas. Colin also provides testimony for proposed Kansas legislation regarding Kansans with disabilities. He has been employed with SACK since 2018 and was SACK's Vice President in 2007-2008. 

Colin Olenick, the Legislative Liason for the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, a caucasian man wearing a black shirt and a "Sweden" lanyard.

11:00 AM-11:30 AM

Closing Ceremony