- Associated Press - Friday, August 7, 2015

LASALLE, Ill. (AP) - Twenty-two Illinois Valley teens participated in superhero training Wednesday. A group of local youths with disabilities worked on developing powers needed to transition into adult life.

Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living hosted the superhero-themed Teen Summit, which focused on teaching the young people how to live autonomously.

“Transition is about learning skills after high school for independent living,” said Marla Michalak, IVCIL youth advocate. “Independent living is not just about living on your own, but being able to make choices on your own.”

The room featured a skyline mural that had all of the group’s favorite superheroes perched on the buildings. But they were forgetting one very important figure on that skyline.

Marla Michalak is the alter ego of superhero Magnificent Marla, aka Superadvocate. Magnificent Marla was there to help the teens discover the skills needed to transition to adult living. Marla even features an alliterative name, fitting for a superhero.



The 15th annual summit for ages 13-21 kicked off with a video made by IVCIL workers that addressed the key issues for the day. Magnificent Marla appeared on the screen and helped teens fight the evil forces that tried to deny them their dreams of independent living.

The video showed the challenges the teens have to face in their transition to assisted living. Magnificent Marla helped show them that they don’t need to be discouraged from obstacles such as finding a job, going to college, doing laundry, or even cooking. The evil-doer Doctor Discouragement threatened they would have to eat cold cereal the rest of their lives, but he was then defeated with an explosion of computer graphics that would put James Cameron’s “Avatar” to shame (probably not, but IVCIL didn’t quite have the same budget for their film).

With the conclusion of the video, Michalak sprang from behind the projection screen in full Magnificent Marla regalia to the amusement of everyone in the room, which doubled as the Transition League Hall.

“We’re going to learn about transition and preparing for life after high school,” Magnificent Marla said to the teens. “Today is about learning independent living skills.”

“She kind of goes all out to make it interactive,” said Robin Austin, a program assistant.

The training program had a variety of fun activities including a mask-making booth, a photo booth and cape making. The teens were divided into groups denoted by the colors on their capes. There were also plenty of refreshments, including cookies and fresh cut watermelon.

The agenda featured a presentation that helped show skills needed to find a job. The presenters went over resume writing and interviewing skills. Later, presentations were given on self-advocacy and decision-making skills, as well as a program that taught the participants how to prepare healthy snacks.

“This is how I power up,” said Jonathin Brandner, as he carried back a plateful of watermelon to his table.

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Source: LaSalle News-Tribune, https://bit.ly/1ObPVYw

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Information from: News-Tribune, https://www.newstrib.com

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