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Military Children, Health, and Research: Interview with Ms. Jessie MacKinnon, The HSC Foundation

Military Children, Health, and Research: Interview with Ms. Jessie MacKinnon, The HSC Foundation


>>Ms. Jessie MacKinnon: My
name is Jessie MacKinnon. I’m the Vice President for Programs
and Partnerships for the HSC Foundation, and I also serve as the Chief Operating
Officer of the National Youth Transitions Center, which is owned
by the HSC Foundation. Since 2006, the HSC Foundation has focused
almost exclusively on youth transitions, and by that I mean young people with
disabilities from about middle school to late twenties who are going through the
transition from adolescence to adulthood and everything that’s
involved with youth transitions. So to that end, HSC Foundation has created
the National Youth Transition Center, which is an entire building
that’s focused on youth transitions, and at the heart of the Center is a
collaborative of over 40 organizations, all of who share the mission
of helping youth in transition. And while what we do is
different, and how we do is different, the why we do it is the same. It’s because we believe
the future needs everyone, that this country cannot ignore the skills
and talents of one in five Americans, so we work together to ensure that
they’re included in the community, because we believe
everyone can make a contribution. This conference is very
important because, frankly, the statistics around youth
with disabilities are dismal. Youth with disabilities are twice as
likely to drop out of high school than their non-disabled peers. They’re three times more likely
to live in poverty as adults, and they’re four times more likely to
interact with the juvenile justice system or the adult court. Those statistics can be changed, and it’s
conferences like this that are identifying gaps in research, and programs, and
outreach that can bring better outcomes for our young people. I’d like to tell you a story
about Hoby, who’s now a young man. But Hoby was born blind. And in high
school, he was very interested in the sciences, but his teacher told
him, “Hoby, you can’t be a chemist, you can’t go into
science, because you’re blind,” and Hoby told her, “No
one can see an atom.” That was very meaningful to her, and she
started encouraging Hoby to go into the sciences. Hoby’s now a grad student at the
University of California, Davis, and he started his own non-profit, and
that non-profit runs a science camp for kids who are blind and have visual
disabilities throughout California. And I know Hoby because the HSC Foundation
runs a program called the Advocates in Disability Awards, and it’s to recognize
and reward young people who advocate for all people with disabilities,
and Hoby was our 2013 recipient. I think all of us, including parents, need
to have high expectations for young people with disabilities. I think we have to ask them about
what they want for their future. We have to listen to
them and tell them, “Yes, they can,” not, “No, they can’t.” And I think we have to resist
the impulse to overprotect them. We have to let them go, we have to let
them find their own path to adulthood and independence. The National Youth
Transition Center has a website, thenytc.org, and on it is a
link to the Heath [Resource] Center, which has a wealth of
information on transition, particularly around
post-secondary education.

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