Nathaniel Lentz is a self-advocate from Reedsburg who will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the spring of 2014. Nathaniel is a BPDD Board member and a public speaker who talks to people about his goals and what he wants to see happen in Wisconsin for people with disabilities.
Why were you interested in becoming a member of BPDD?
I did not want to only be a self-advocate, but an advocate for people with disabilities in the state of Wisconsin and beyond. I also wanted to teach people that just because some people may not understand what an individual with a disability has to go through every day, they are the same, but sometimes have to learn in different ways. With being on the Board and being a student, I am always busy teaching individuals that no matter what their disability is, they can do anything they want with the tools at their disposal!
What current advocacy activities are you working on?
Through my job at the UW-Whitewater Andersen Library, I have meetings with my supervisors to give them advice on how to work with people who have a developmental disability. I also plan on working with the university’s Center for Students with Disabilities to help them understand what they are going to face in the future.
How did you get interested in becoming a speaker and why did you do it?
I became interested because I knew I had the motivation and perseverance to succeed in no matter what I am doing. When I was coming into my own as a self-advocate, I was bringing my voice to parents and students. I cannot believe how much of an impact I had on parents! After each conference, parents who worked for support groups wanted me to come and speak! As a speaker, I learned that sometimes a person has to go through adversity to become successful. I also learned that sometimes I needed to fail at something first to come out ahead in the end.
What do you want to see changed for people with disabilities in Wisconsin?
I want people with disabilities to be able to have an education and employment no matter what it takes to get to their goal! For instance, if they want to go to college, I want people to have the proper skills to succeed at the entrance exams. Once they get into college, people with disabilities need to have the necessary skills to pass their classes and eventually get a bachelor’s degree! In employment, everyone should be set up to be successful at their job. I want to teach people how to do a skill in which they can succeed not only at the skill, but on the job that they want to do!