Getting Out There…..My Experience in the IMAGE Teen and Young Adult Programs.

A picture of Samantha Patti at a Girls Night Out program event in 2012

Samantha Patti at a Girls Night Out program event in 2012

 

When I first started attending the IMAGE programs it was the month of July 2011. I remember I felt uncomfortable at first. I am a very shy person, so interacting with new people and not being in my comfort zone is difficult for me.  Typically I am only comfortable in a low-key place, like my house where there isn’t a lot of noise and people.

I met Jessica and Lori, Program Directors at The IMAGE Center. They were very kind and understanding. The parents stayed in the back eating their dinner and socializing while program participants did activities.

At the program I felt different from the other kids.  While I observed the other participants with a wide range of disabilities, I still felt out of place and found it difficult to speak to them.  I remember I began to shake internally. I have a very severe anxiety disorder, and am typically reserved unless I know you.  Some of the challenges of the other participants were easy to see, some were not. I felt I was my own type of person who was “normal” and not like “them.” However, this isn’t the only place this feeling had occurred in me.

Throughout the two years I have participated in the IMAGE program, I have learned a lot, especially in the girls night program and teen connect program.

All of the participants have some sort of disability. This is why we are here in the program. Maybe one person has a very severe physical or mental disability; whereas others may not and you cannot visually tell their challenges.

When I first started participating in programs for teens with disabilites I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I didn’t belong. For a long time I thought “Why me?”

“Why do I have to have a disability no one can see?” Does that make me seem snobby and standoffish?

Jessica, the Youth Director at IMAGE, helped me with my issues but also helped me balance out my feelings. She asked me to help be a role model for participants and to feel a stronger person inside myself.  I now realize we all can teach each other something, no matter what the issue.

I love the other girls from the girls night program and have enjoyed everyone from teen connect even if it has felt a little bit awkward at times.

From all of our experiences we can all learn from one another.

At the present I can proudly say that I am interning at the IMAGE Center office. This experience feels very rewarding for me. It gives me a satisfaction that I cannot describe. To all those out there no matter what your challenge is YOUR NOT ALONE! Check back for more on the Blog from me this summer!

Samantha Patti

IMAGE Center Intern