Welcome back to Marco Orlando for the final blog post of the 2019 year.
“MY BREAKOUT YEAR”
When I first began getting involved with Speaking Up For Us in 2012, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect in the beginning. There was a lot about SUFU that I didn’t know, how it got its start in Maine, and how they’ve gotten to where they are now. It was very much “touch and go” when I first got involved, learning my way around as I went along. I often deferred to people who had seniority over me and had been with SUFU longer, people like Eric McVay, for instance. A lot of what I’ve learned about SUFU, I likely learned from Eric.
I’ll admit I was a bit loose with the rules in the beginning and was more likely to allow people to go off and do their own thing. It was very easy for me to tell when I had lost control over my own local chapter meetings. As time went on, I noticed my leadership style changing and evolving as events from my life away from SUFU left their imprint on me. I found myself taking the lead more often and I realized it was important for me to set the tone when my group did stuff, especially out in the community where we were more visible to the general public.
This change in my leadership style was not lost on staff, especially advisor Krista Kennedy and interim executive director Monique Stairs. As I began getting out and doing more, they would each offer suggestions to me, and I often took them to heart. It was through talking with Krista while we traveled together that led me to repurposing some of my older writings for the blog section of SUFU’s official website. She had seen some of what I’ve written online in the past, and she knew I had a way with words based on that, so she encouraged me to do more with my writings that way.
Following up on that, Monique had suggested I facilitate a writing workshop for this year’s annual statewide conference. I liked the idea, and I agreed to go through with it. From there, things started snowballing, and I began to realize I was having a “breakout year” in terms of my involvement with SUFU. I had also accepted nomination to the statewide board of directors. It was something that had been discussed before, but I used to worry about spreading myself too thin in the past. But I realized that this was the perfect time for me to take the logical next step as I took on more responsibility and more ownership of SUFU.
Not long after, I was approached to help facilitate a screening of the documentary Intelligent Lives during the conference because I had already seen it once before. This made sense to me, and I went along with it. Before I knew it, Monique approached me to emcee the conference and even give a keynote speech. I was flattered to be considered for such important roles. It made me realize that this year’s conference was a “coming out party” for me. I was proud to take home a Marcia Rosen Award and a Director’s Choice Award from the conference. I was honored to be elected to the statewide board of directors. Seeing the culmination of all my efforts this past year and seeing how much I mean to so many of SUFU’s members, how I’ve inspired them all to start telling their own stories was very touching. Using my writings to educate people and advocate for disability rights efforts in Maine has now become an important goal in my life.
Thank you Marco for sharing with us this past year and we look forward to hearing more from Marco and others in the coming year. For over 26 years, Speaking Up For Us has made it possible for people like Marco to become leaders in the community and advocate for the voices of people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maine. SUFU relies on the generous support of readers like yourself. By partnering with SUFU you will help provide resources to help us establish new chapters throughout the state and offer more learning and leadership opportunities. You can give now by donating on our Donation Page or if you would prefer you can mail a check to us at:
Speaking Up For Us
PO Box 4139
Presque Isle, ME 04769