Rick Petzke is a self-advocate from Madison. He is a member of AmeriCorps and People First-Stoughton. Rick recently graduated from BPDD’s Partners in Policymaking program and, as part of his AmeriCorps work, has been working in the BPDD office since August.
What did you learn from your Partners in Policymaking experience and why is it a good program for self-advocates?
In Partners, I learned that there are other self-advocates besides me and that we’re all working to do good things for people with disabilities in Wisconsin. The training program is great for self-advocates who don’t know a lot about advocacy or how to talk to legislators. I admit that, going into Partners, I didn’t know much about either. But now I know a lot about advocating for myself and for others, and I’ve visited and talked with my legislators. It proves that we can all learn, regardless of our age.
What do you want to see changed for people with disabilities in Wisconsin?
I would like to see vacant buildings in Madison and the surrounding area be converted into low-income housing for people who receive housing assistance. This would help decrease the wait for some people with disabilities to get housing. Two other issues I’m passionate about are transportation and employment. I would like to see employment as the first option for everyone.
How did you get involved with AmeriCorps and what is it like?
Two years ago, I was unemployed and I couldn’t find work, so I started volunteering in the community. Then, a broker from the Arc-Wisconsin told me about AmeriCorps and how I could get a living stipend for doing the same things I was doing as a volunteer. I’m glad I did it because as an AmeriCorps member I’ve learned a lot of work skills and I’ve still been able to be on the lookout for permanent employment. Also, after completing 900 hours in the program, you are eligible for an education award.
As an AmeriCorps member, I do office work at various places, including BPDD. The work includes data entry, taking notes, making phone calls, etc. I also help out at a pantry and the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison.