On February 12, 2019 Friends Life Community participated in Disability Day on the Hill with nine friends, four staff members, and one parent. Disability Day on the Hill provided an opportunity for the Friends to meet and talk with state legislators at the Capitol to advocate about issues important to them. Disability Day on the Hill is a great way to put into practice what the Friends have been learning and practicing year-round in our programming at Friends Life. The goal at Friends Life Community is to provide the Friends with opportunities to connect with others, express themselves, and self-advocate – to THRIVE in a place of belonging.

During our time on the Hill the Friends spoke about their current jobs (currently 53% of the Friends are employed) and what they like about working in the community. The Friends also had a chance to talk about their current play production and how they enjoy the Nashville community through a program like Friends Life Community. This gave the Friends a chance to not only self-advocate with legislators, but also gave them the opportunity to advocate for other adults with disabilities in the Nashville community.

Advocacy is not just a one-day event, and is something that Friends Life Community believes should be a part of the skills that the Friends learn to help them reach their fullest potential. Friends Life Community focuses on four program areas: Service Learning and Employment, Life Skills, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts. Within each area, a core focus for the Friends is to develop self-advocacy skills.

Currently, the visual arts and performing arts programs are collaborating on a year-long project called Advocacy Through the Arts. This multidisciplinary program was partially funded by a grant through the Metro Arts Commission. The Friends utilize the arts to build confidence, execute self-expression, and promote self-advocacy through the multimedia forms of art: video production, original art, costumes, film, original music and more. The project culminates into a live performance of each artist, written and designed by the Friends.

Advocacy not only benefits the Friends, it benefits the entire community. At Friends Life we strongly believe that Everyone Deserves a Place to Belong, and we want to empower each Friend with confidence and opportunity to self-advocate so that they will have a rippling impact across the community for generations to come.