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Self advocacy & leadership training modules – by youth, for youth

by Mary Mazzoni on January 26, 2013

Young leaders with disabilities are networking with each other, making their own mark on the world, and reaching out to their younger peers.

Nothing empowers teens like learning from young adults with diverse abilities who are leading their own lives – their own way.

Many young leaders want to empower their younger peers, but it’s a real challenge for them to create engaging activities and training materials from scratch – given their own busy schedules.

That’s why a prominent young leader, and the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network, designed and field tested a cookbook of dynamic “by youth – for youth” empowerment modules.

This treasure trove is now available - free!

Like all great cookbooks – it’s well-organized and comprehensive – with tasty, field-tested “recipes” that are intended to be customized by the user.

Head Chef and Author

With funding from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council, the ACT Now Project of the Berks County Transition Coordinating Council was able to hire the ideal author for the What’s Cookin’? youth leadership training modules, with the intent of sharing this unique resource nation-wide.

Josie Badger’s skills and accomplishments exceed our capacity to list here. Youth leadership is her passion. She has incredible gifts for engaging and empowering young people with diverse abilities and disabilities to, as she says, “achieve their maximum, unique and personal calling”.

Ms. Badger helped found, and has served as president of both the National Youth Leadership Network and the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network. She’s completed all but her dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Healthcare Ethics through Duquesne University.

As Ms. Wheelchair America 2012, Josie took her platform of Youth Leadership around the nation. Her influence has gone global through her work with  One Young World.

It’s transformational to see Josie with a group of youth with widely diverse abilities and disabilities. Coming together as strangers, unsure of what to expect, the youth are, within minutes, engaged. Josie leads them in experiences to name and own their gifts and their goals – and begin to taste what it is to be a leader. These experiences have been life-changing for many youth.

By preparing What’s Cookin’?, Ms. Badger has made it possible for young leaders around the country to share these empowering workshops and experiences with others. What a gift!


Great recipes are tried again and again. They can be customized to fit particular needs and tastes.

Members of the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network (PYLN) facilitate workshops for diverse groups of teens all over the state. The sessions vary in length from less than an hour to a full day – or even an entire weekend. Sometimes the groups are small – sometimes very large. They’ve customized the “What’s Cookin’?” materials to meet unique needs and circumstances. You can too.

What’s Cookin’?

Taking the form of an electronic cookbook, the What’s Cookin’? advocacy and leadership training modules are housed at, the website of the nationally recognized Berks County Transition Coordinating Council.

Each section of What’s Cookin’? includes:

  • Customizable presentation materials with amazing graphics and engaging activities
  • Presentation tips
  • Supplementary materials from groups like KASA, NYLN, and PYLN

Here are Links to each Section:

Nutritional Value - Purpose and Benefits of Using the Cookbook

Appetizers & Icebreakers - How to Welcome and Engage Youth

Develop Your Own Flavor - Self-Awareness, Acceptance & Self Advocacy

Create Your Own Cookbook - Empowerment, Advocacy & Leadership

Discovering Family Recipes - Disability History, Culture & Community

Setting the Table - Preparing for Transition from High School

Writing Your Own Recipe - Your IEP

A Taste of Employment - Finding a Job

A Lesson in Etiquette - Higher Education

Preparing the Ingredients – for Health Care Transition

Managing Your Own Kitchen – Independent Living 

Choosing the Right Ingredients – for Positive Relationships

Spicin’ it Up – Getting Involved in Your Community 

Doing the Dishes – Ways to “Wrap-up” a Youth Workshop 

Your turn

Now that you know about What’s Cookin’?  - how will you use it?

With whom will you share it?

How do you support young leaders with diverse abilities as they network together, follow their own calling, and empower their younger peers?

Leave a comment to share your ideas and experiences. Let’s learn from one another.

Do you agree that What’s Cookin’? is an amazing resource?

Please spread the word by sharing this post.

More power to you!

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