Success Story #7: Kristina Spears

 ini·​tia·​tive | \ i-ˈni-shə-tiv  also -shē-ə-tiv \

Definition of initiative:  energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action 

Taken from the Merriam Webster dictionary, the above definition of “initiative” very much describes a certain individual by the name of Kristina Spears.

Above: Kristina shows off her graduation certificate from the Partners in Policymaking program

Kristina is someone with boatloads of initiative. She is a young woman who knows what she wants in life and pursues it with relentless energy. It is in part because of Kristina’s initiative that she initially applied for, participated in, and eventually graduated from, the prestigious Partners in Policymaking program with the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council. Partners is a yearlong program where participants meet each month over a period of two days. The Partners program provides leadership training for adults with disabilities and parents of children with developmental disabilities, and involves a considerable time commitment on the part of participants; not everyone graduates from the Partners program. Kristina did not miss a single session of the Partners program, and graduated in 2015.

Of her personal experience in the Partners program, Kristina says, “I met new people and learned to speak up for myself.” Although the Partners program has a rigorous curriculum, it was not all work; Kristina adds that she “got to swim in the swimming pool at the hotel” each time she went!

Above: Kristina presents a $500 check from People First to the Little Explorers Club play based learning group of Bowling Green.

Kristina is also President of the local chapter of People First, a self-advocacy organization for persons with disabilities. Kristina has been President of People First for over five years, but nobody in the chapter is clamoring to implement term limits; she just happens to do a very good job as President, and the chapter members recognize this. “She is a very good self-advocate, and can be very helpful and an advocate for others” says chapter Advisor Melony Grote. Melony mentions that Kristina’s participation in both Partners and People First has allowed her to blossom as a public speaker, something she hasn’t always had confidence in. “She’s never really afraid to get up and talk in front of people” Melony says.

Kristina’s strong initiative has shown itself in others ways, from helping plan and organize People First fundraisers to deciding where she wants to live and work. Those on Kristina’s ISP planning team do not need to pry to get her to voice her vision for a good life, and what she does and doesn’t want in her life. “She wants to be a part of the community, and she has good ideas,” mentions Melony.

Kristina is employed at the Pike Shop sheltered workshop.

Kristina lives “out in the sticks” in a nice country home in rural Pike County, and this is her preference. Although her home is off the beaten path, the staff in her home go to great lengths to ensure that Kristina is a full and contributing member of the greater community, and does the things she wants to do socially and recreationally. Kristina likes going to movies with friends, swimming, dining out, and shopping. While at home, Kristina likes to cook, read, and play with her dogs. Kristina graduated from Bowling Green High School in 2006.

Kristina participates virtually year-round in athletic activities, including Special Olympics track and field, bowling, and basketball, and Challenger baseball. Kristina is employed at the Pike Shop sheltered workshop, does a variety of different things there, and mentions that she very much likes working there. Kristina’s vision for her future is to have greater control and independence over as many areas of her life as possible.

Kristina Spears is a success story because her self-advocacy and advocacy for others makes her a role model, not just for other persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but everyone! She does not hesitate to voice her thoughts and feelings on those things that are important to her, and has the courage to practice self-determination in her life.

Because of this and everything else we know about Kristina, we are hereby proposing a minor amendment to the Merriam Webster definition of “initiative”:

ini·​tia·​tive | \ i-ˈni-shə-tiv  also -shē-ə-tiv \

Definition of initiative:  energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action


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