1998-1988 Graduate Updates
I am really enjoying working on the Disability and Public Health grant at the IOD. Writing for the New Hampshire Challenge has also been a lot of fun. For the past two years, I have been both the facilitator and a member of SALT (Self Advocacy Leadership Team). I am still a group leader for the Leadership Series and my group is wonderful. For fun, I’m making terrariums.
I am still with The Moore Center…it will be 5 years as of 1-1-16! J Family Support Coordinator! And among other things, I facilitate the Greater Manchester Transition Professionals Coalition in collaboration with Schools and The Moore Center.
I also sit on some local Boards/Commissions for the city of Nashua:
- Nashua Housing Authority Commission
- Nashua Historic District Commission
- Zoning Board of Adjustment
As a member of the Governor’s Commission on Disability, I co-Chair the Legislative Committee. I am also a member of the Architectural Barrier-Free Committee and as a member of this committee represent the Governor’s Commission on the NH State Building Code Review Board.
I am the Chair of the SRC (State Rehabilitation Council). This is the Advocacy and Advisory Council for NH Vocational Rehabilitation.
I am a member of the CYCC (Children and Youth with Chronic Conditions).
I am Board President of the Granite State Federation of Families.
On a personal note my son recently honorably retired from the USAF after 20 years of service to our Country. I am also the Grandmother of two beautiful grandchildren, Lilly who is 5 and Donovan who is 1. Gifts to our family from our son Michael and our daughter in law Corinne!
Our daughter Lexi, continues to do well in her programs at the Plus Company in Nashua and brings her own joyful gifts to the family as well!
Vernon and I will celebrate 29 years of marriage in June and look forward to many more!
Leadership graduates Michael ('97) and Viki Gayhardt ('96) have been supporting their two children with ASD in inclusive school and community activities for years. Viki has served on the Transition and Safety Workgroups of the NH Council on ASD's. She was also appointed to the Council by former Governor Lynch as his representative.
During their children's transitional years into adulthood, it became very apparent to Mike and Viki that several gaping and inconsistent holes exists in transitional services for students who have autism and other disabilities.
So when the good people from their son's transition program admitted that there were no community based businesses willing to allow participation in hands-on automotive repair internships, Viki and Mike decided to take matters into their own hands.
This past July, Michael, an automotive technician for nearly 40 years, bought a well-established auto repair business in Londonderry, NH and reopened it as "Reliant Auto Repair LLC." This has allowed the Gayhardt family to create real working opportunities for both of their children in a family business.
Their son has since enrolled in community college to earn his certificate in automotive repair, and Mike is there to oversee the repair work that his son is now able to do in a real automotive setting. The experience also helps their son practice the skills he is learning in college.
Their daughter, who loves to bake, has found her niche in the family business by baking beautifully wrapped cupcakes and cookies with a sticker that says "A sweet thank you for your business" to present to the customers when they pay their bill. Their daughter also pitches in for the weekly clean up of the shop.
In addition to creating a place for their own children with disabilities to practice their workplace skills, Reliant Auto Repair has agreed to be a host site for a local transitional program and will soon welcome their first student intern who also would not otherwise have the opportunity to develop work skills in a real automotive setting. Mike and Viki hope that other small businesses, especially those who are run by leadership graduates, will consider becoming hosts sites for the same purpose.
To learn more about Reliant Auto Repair LLC, please call us at 603-434-2282, or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ReliantAutoRepairNH/.
I took care of my grandmother for 9 years and 5 years ago I got the town of Derry to put in a street Light in my neighborhood I have met New Jersey gov. Chris Christie at a town meeting at the Derry V.F.W and I met Jeb Bush at the Derry Opera House and I got up and spoke about people with special needs and he came over and gave me a hug.
I met Rand Paul at MaryAnn's Diner and I also met New York Gov. George Pataki
Viki Gayhardt continues to touch countless lives with her work, thoughtfulness and creativity.
“I work as an autism family support specialist for a pediatric outpatient clinic in Raymond, NH. I network parents and community who love/support someone with autism in the greater Seacoast/Rockingham County area,” Gayhardt told NHLS.
“I serve on the safety and transition-to-adulthood work groups reporting to the NH Autism Council. I’m currently serving on a planning committee for a new initiative for NH Family Voices called Family-to-Family.”
And, most recently Viki was appointed by Governor Lynch to a seat on the NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders. GO VIKI!!
In her free time Gayhardt collaborates as a singer/songwriter. Sometimes with an organization called Musicians for a Cause (that raises awareness and funds for autism in NH) and at other times, on her own.
Gayhardt released her first full length CD titled Unguarded Heart in 2011.
“I’m pretty proud of some of my lyrics. They were inspired by a troubled girl from childhood. I think she was put in my life in part, to prepare me for what I’d later be dealing with later in life. The song is titled “Fourth Grade Picture.”
Hey Emmy - What was your story?
What was the reason your eyes look so sad
In the 4th grade picture - The classroom picture I still have
In every town on every playground, these little wars still rage
Girls and boys made fun of, never asked to play
One day we’ll teach our children, with action more than words
That every child needs a friend and being different shouldn’t hurt
“While you’re there, you can see a video of Vinny singing and playing guitar at a school coffee house,” smiled a proud mom.
written by Tamara Le
“Vinny is attending college and continues to play guitar. He wants to work on cars and graduated from the automotive technical program last Spring” said Viki Gayhardt (‘96) of her 19-year-old son.
Vince also obtained his driver's license when he was 17 and has enjoyed the freedom it has allowed.
Viki and her husband Mike (’97) attended Leadership – and Vinny was part of the 2nd YES program that Frank Sgambati ran for youth with and without disabilities, modeled somewhat after Leadership. YES gives kids lots of ideas for their future and assistance with planning to help their dreams become a reality.
updated Summer 2013
Winter 2016 Update:
At our shop, Reliant Auto Repair in Londonderry, Mike (class of '97) and I (class of '96) realized a goal that we had in becoming a host site for a student with special educational needs to intern and learn soft skills in the automotive repair industry. We did this because we knew firsthand that there was a need. Our son did not have a chance to intern at a "real" auto repair shop when he was transition aged, so that compelled us to make it possible for another student with similar interests.
Laurie McCray, enrolled in NH Leadership to become a stronger advocate for her son Michael, who was 6 years old at that time and had developmental disabilities and complex health conditions. Laurie has since become a very passionate leader, advocate, activist, and political organizer in her community and state. She has been extremely involved in many state organizations including the NH Developmental Disabilities Council, the Consumer Advisory Council for the Institute on Disability, and is a past president of the Disability Rights Center. She recently received the 2013 Distinguished Democrat Award from the Portsmouth Democratic Committee.
Laurie believes one of the most important messages she received at NH Leadership was to understand mutual self-interest. She thinks that the Community Organizing Session was invaluable in teaching how to discover, appreciate, and respect the self-interests of others in order to achieve results. Laurie tries to apply, and temper, her techniques and approaches in affecting change to reflect the culture of her community and state. She says when she does that, win/win outcomes often happen.
Laurie also wants other leaders to “learn more about the history of the self-determination movement in NH, as it seems it has been forgotten.” She believes self-determination can, and should, determine the quality of life for people. “The principles of self-determination, full inclusion, and social justice drive my disability and health care advocacy work as well as my political activism, both as a parent and as a registered nurse,” says Laurie.
Her advice to other leaders is to “Be true to yourself. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. If your instincts say something is discriminatory, it likely is. Do not be fooled into false trust of people in decision-making positions. It is critical to be ever-vigilant."
Laurie lives in Portsmouth, NH and is a frequent contributor on the NH Leadership Listserv.
Jan Skoby works as the Administrator of Training & Education and Complaint Investigator Coordinator for the Bureau of Developmental Services. Jan is the parent of a 23 year old son who enjoys photography, public speaking and is a self-employed business owner. His medical and developmental challenges did not affect his ability to succeed and achieve his desired accomplishments.
Jan has held various human service positions over the years including: Intake Coordinator, Service Coordinator, Family Services Supervisor, Program Coordinator and Respite Provider. She was also actively involved in various volunteer positions such as Parent to Parent of NH and Co-Chair for an Area Agency Family Support Council. In September 2011, Jan began working to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, exploitation and other human rights violations on behalf of individuals who receive services funded through the Bureau of Developmental Services and began coordinating the program in 2012.
When asked what part of leadership resonated with her the most, she replied “Something that stuck with me from Leadership is that it is never too early to begin advocating on behalf of your son/daughter. I recall the first time I testified to end the waitlist was when my son Amir was only 6 years old. Someone asked me why I was there when they discovered Amir's age.
My reply was that it is never too early to advocate (accurate statement ....the waitlist still exists).
Jan is also a published author and writes to share the experiences and lessons her son has brought to her life.
Ryan is a young man entering into adulthood who has brought about many changes in his life this year. He graduated with his class from Concord High School in June. Although he is nonverbal, he was able to participate in all regular education classes with the assistance of a qualified aide. Like many other recent graduates, he is taking a semester off to enjoy community activities before beginning college classes after the first of the year.
When our youngest son returned home from an extended hospital stay brought on by viral encephalitis, we expected him to resume his participation in his community, which included school. However, we encountered barriers at every turn.
In September of 1994, I was accepted into the NH Leadership Series. This Series gave us the tools and information needed to develop and implement our vision that has continued to grow in possibilities over the years. Ryan is a now young man who is entering into adulthood. This year has brought about many changes in his life.
In June he graduated with his class from Concord High School. Although he is nonverbal, he was able to participate in all regular education classes with the assistance of a qualified aide. Like many other recent graduates, he is taking a semester off to spend enjoying community activities before beginning college classes after the first of the new year.
Ryan's years in public school could be trying at times, but the rewards far outweigh the problems we encountered. From the moment he reentered the school system after his illness, his friends and classmates were at his side. Many of these children remain his friends to this day. Had we home schooled Ryan, or permitted him to be placed out of district, these connections could not have been developed. Perhaps one of our proudest moments as parents was watching Ryan receive his diploma and hear the number of students cheering him on.
The Institute on Disability's New Hampshire Leadership Series showed us how to maintain our vision for Ryan when many around us were only interested in describing the many things Ryan couldn't do, or the things he would never experience.
Yes, the yellow bus no longer stops at our house, but Ryan is looking forward to college classes and starting to discuss possible career options. He knows that there will be challenges ahead, but he's committed to showing others that anything is possible with a little support from family and friends.
The Leadership Series also expanded my vision for myself. I learned the importance of being involved at the local, state, and national level if real systemic change is going to happen. I am a member of our local school board, on the NH School Board Association Board of Directors, and numerous other committees and task forces. I am currently the Director of CAUSE (Communities Actively United for Social Equality) and continue to be involved in issues at the state and national level.
"When I participated in Leadership, my daughter was only three years old and in a self-contained preschool program. Leadership was my first serious lesson in "Standing Up For What Is Right 101". I gained confidence in my ability to be an advocate for my daughter, acquired knowledge about what all the possibilities are for people with disabilities, and made the friends I need for support. Following my Leadership experience, we advocated for our daughter to be placed in a typical preschool program, and she was! At the middle school level, we had to advocate for our daughter to be placed in the general curriculum program and be graded like her peers, and she was! Marika is in high school now, working toward a scholastic diploma, despite the many challenges she faces because of cerebral palsy. Although she uses a wheelchair for mobility and augmentative communication devices, she will enroll in the Driver's Education program in the fall. This summer, Marika has been interviewing for a part-time job in the health services field. In 1998, after facing several years of discriminatory practices in a Girl Scout troop and being flat-out rejected from another troop because of her disability, Marika filed a lawsuit against Girl Scouts of America (diversityingirlscouts.com).
Marika is indeed unique and special, but not special in the way people would traditionally envision a "special child". She is special because she has been a leader and teacher to hundreds of people. She is special because she is surprisingly brave and determined. And, she is special to us because she is our daughter. Leadership showed me how to stand up for her rights and teach her to stand up for herself. Her education, social life, and community experiences have all been positively influenced by what I learned in Leadership."
Winter 2016 Update:
My Leadership experience led me down the path that has become my new career. Previously, I was working and living the life of advocate for my daughter and others with developmental disabilities. Leadership opened my eyes to the possibilities for my daughter, Marika, after she graduated from high school. I attended Leadership in the second class when my daughter was 3; she is 29 now. While she was in her junior and senior years of high school, we decided to open an Adult Day Center, serving elders who have physical and/or memory impairments. We've been open for 9 years and Marika works at the Center 2-3 days a week. When she's not working, she is busy in the community with friends, going to the movies, out to lunch, in a ceramics class, etc.