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Partners in Policymaking Graduates New Generation of Disability Leaders

RICHMOND, Va., May 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities,, located in Richmond, Virginia, will graduate a new class of Partners in Policymaking (PIP) on Saturday, May 16, 2009. PIP class participants, Partners, are a diverse group of highly motivated adult self-advocates and parents of children with disabilities representing a wide range of backgrounds and abilities from all across Virginia.

The PIP Class of 2009 joins the ranks of over 325 Partners statewide with demonstrable impact on Virginia's disability services. An annual Virginia Board survey of Partners following their graduation identified that, collectively, they engaged in more than 25,000 distinct individual, community and statewide advocacy activities during the most recent year studied.

"The Partners in Policymaking program has taught me as a parent that I need to help my son follow his passions, interests, even his obsessions," said Susan Taylor, Powhatan resident and mother of six children, the fourth and fifth of which are on the autism spectrum.

Partners in Policymaking educates participants like the Taylors on how to be informed, skilled and effective disability rights advocates for themselves, their families and all Virginians. This intensive, competency-based program teaches Partners how to effectively work with policymakers on the local, state and national levels to promote systems change and community inclusion.

Honoring the accomplishments of this year's Partners in Policymaking class will be Norman Kunc, a world renowned disability advocate. Kunc will serve as keynote speaker during the graduation ceremony and will highlight the important role that Partners play in furthering the disability rights movement by dispelling myths and stereotypes about disability that historically have led to isolation, exclusion and oppression of people with disabilities.

On the evening before graduation, Friday, May 15, 2009, a celebratory banquet will feature Brett Leake,, an internationally acclaimed comedian. Leake, who has a disability, is a regular guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

These events will honor this year's class of graduates, all of which attended eight two-day sessions in Richmond led by state and national experts who prepared them to use the power of advocacy to change the way that people with disabilities live in their communities.

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