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Lay Advocates for Inclusive Education - Our Give to Lincoln Goal

For almost a decade, the Lincoln Community Foundation has sponsored “Give to Lincoln Day” as a mechanism for not-for-profit entities in Lincoln and Lancaster County to participate in a day-long fund raising drive. For some entities, it is an opportunity to introduce themselves to the general public; for others it is an opportunity to build on the community strength of the organization.

One of the areas in which Disability Rights Nebraska has been long involved is the field of making sure that children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education as mandated by state and federal law. We have long struggled to assure that children receive that education in appropriate integrated environments, instead of isolating them in segregated and congregated settings which provide little actual educational benefit. Students who are included are more likely to grow up to be adults who are included as vital parts of their communities. The difficulty that we face, as is true with protection and advocacy agencies throughout the United States, is that there are more children in need of help than it is possible for our staff to provide effective assistance.

ver the past several years, Disability Rights Nebraska has worked to develop an Inclusive Education Lay Advocacy project to help address this significant need. This program is designed to train lay advocates in the complexities of special education to work with families to obtain a free appropriate public education in an integrated school environment. Disability Rights Nebraska staff and other experts in the field provide intensive training to individuals so they can assist children who might otherwise fall through the cracks of the special education system.

Last year the $4,100 Disability Rights Nebraska received from the community through Give to Lincoln funded:

  • Complete training for nine inclusive education lay advocates
  • Support for several of those new advocates to assist six families to advocate for inclusive education
  • Initiation of a second training, and development of online training options to respond to pandemic conditions
  • Purchase of materials and supplies to facilitate the training of 12 lay advocates in Lincoln / Lancaster County.

This means that your contributions to Disability Rights Nebraska through Give to Lincoln have resulted in more effective resources being made available to meet the desperate educational needs of children with disabilities in this community. Your gifts have had an immediate and positive impact!

Please support Give to Lincoln day. We understand that all of the nonprofit organizations seeking support will benefit from your contributions. We only ask that when you make your donation, you consider Disability Rights Nebraska as one of the beneficiaries of your assistance. Help us bump up that total to at least $5,000 this year! Together, we make this community, and thereby the entire world, a better place.

Michael J. Elsken has served as a Staff Attorney for Disability Rights Nebraska (formerly Nebraska Advocacy Services, Inc.), since 2002. He has engaged in a broad range of “protection and advocacy” activities for the agency on behalf of individuals with disabilities in the State of Nebraska. Much of his work involves both disability employment and education issues.