LEND Trainee Morgan Turner headshot

Turner appointed to Kentucky Employment First Council by Governor Beshear

In 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order to create the Kentucky Employment First Council, which helps people with disabilities find meaningful employment.

And now, one of our own will be helping out with that work.

Morgan Turner has accepted a position as Vice Chair on that council.

“The Kentucky Employment First Council helps get people with disabilities employed,” Turner said. “I was appointed by the Governor as someone with a disability to represent people with disabilities…attend and host the meetings if the chair isn’t there. I will serve on the executive committee.”

For Turner, this is a golden opportunity. Not only does it give him the chance to work for a cause he deeply values, but also allows him to serve as an example of what’s possible.

“I’m a person with a disability that’s employed and want to help other people with disabilities be employed,” Turner said. “[I want] to help people understand that individuals with disabilities can work and have a purpose and live a healthy life.”

And as someone who has lived that kind of healthy life himself, he’s well-equipped to help others find it. He plans to use his skills to be a leader and he’s looking forward to tackling his new responsibilities.

“[I am] excited about learning new things and how to be good vice chair.” he said.

Learn more about Employment First here.

LEND Trainee Morgan Turner headshot

Turner wins Gold!

Though everyone working at HDI is a champion of some sort, one of us has the medals to prove it.

Morgan Turner, a program education assistant for HDI, won three games at the Kentucky Special Olympics Summer Games, which were held in Richmond from June 2 to 4. In total, Turner played and won three games. He competed alongside his cousin Sam, who served as a Unified Partner – that is, a person without a disability who participates in the games alongside someone with a disability.

“I’ve won several medals in the past, however I’ve never won a medal with my cousin and that made it even better,” Turner said. “I told him before I didn’t care if we won or lost, I was just happy to compete alongside him and whatever happens, happens and luckily a gold medal came out of it.”

In preparing for the games, Turner faced a challenge – he and his partner both had busy schedules that made it difficult to practice together.

“My cousin is a senior at Danville High School and played baseball for them,” he said. “I have my own set so me and him would practice on the weekends”

However, it certainly didn’t help that they, quite literally, had a lifetime of experience playing with one another.

“We also would play bocce ball on our family vacations through the years,” Turner said. “I feel like that helped prepare as well.”

That, and Turner has a ton of experience at the Special Olympics, having already competed in a number of sports and taken home multiple medals in his fields.

“I’ve competed in Special Olympics for about thirteen or fourteen years,” he said. “I compete in softball, basketball, flag football, and bocce ball.”

These events give him the chance to do what he really enjoys – to make new friends and to play the games he loves.

“I just love sports and love to compete and meeting new people and getting to know them,” he said. “Special Olympics allows me to do all of that.”

Turner wasn’t the only representative of HDI at the Special Olympics. Trent Marcum, a Disability and Health Program Facilitator, assisted in running the health promotion tent for the Healthy Athletes Program alongside Lindsey Mullis, who led the team, and other HDI volunteers such as Andrea Deweese, Kristen Dahl and Lisa Amstutz along with other volunteers from EKU and UofL.

“We work several different booths where we collect information for Special Olympics including basic data like height, weight, and blood pressure.” Marcum said. “Additionally, we have a set of questions to ask athletes on topics regarding tobacco, hygiene, sun safety, nutrition, and physical activity. We also host several more fun and engaging activities where participants can win prizes and play games while learning how to improve their health. The heart of what we do is in the conversations we get to have with athletes and their families, and that’s where we hope to leave a lasting impact.”

They also offer fun and games at their booth. This was the first time they were inside, which Marcum said was a welcome relief from the sun, and plenty of HDI volunteers showed up to help out.

“It went really well,” Marcum said. “We’ve had games in the past where we haven’t had a lot of volunteers…This year, it was nice to have ample people for all the booths.”

It also helps get people from the community involved and helps educate them about how to support people with disabilities.

And they had another helping hand – none other than Morgan Turner, who was too busy competing to work the event, but helped out with setup. “He is always extremely helpful,” Marcum said. “He helped me on Friday get all of our stuff ready to take…he’s the best.

The HDI Digital Storytelling Initiative features Dr. Phillip Rumrill

The UK Human Development Institute presents the second video in its Digital Storytelling Initiative, a Fund for Excellence project. In this video, Morgan Turner, Project Specialist, interviews Dr. Phillip Rumrill.

Dr. Rumrill is a professor of Counselor Education, and Director of Research and Training at the UK Human Development Institute. He shares his personal experience with disability, how it has impacted his life, and shares advice for other people living with disabilities. Dr. Rumrill says, “It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s what you do contribute and what you add in that appreciation of diversity and value of everyone’s humanity”.

The Digital Storytelling Initiative utilizes the StoryCorps (R) facilitation model to preserve and share stories by, about, and told by people with disabilities. In these videos, both the interviewer and interviewee are people who experience disability in their lives. If you are interested in learning more about the Digital Storytelling Initiative, contact patti.logsdon@uky.edu.

Morgan Turner wearing a UK blue t-shirt in a gym. He is smiling at the camera and has short, black hair.

Morgan Turner leads presentation at the Dignity of Work International Forum

HDI Program Education Assistant, Morgan Turner, recently presented at the Dignity of Work International Forum sponsored by the Institute on Community Integration. In his presentation, Morgan’s Musings: My Successful Journey to Inclusive Employment in Higher Education, Morgan shared his experience as a person with a disability in finding, maintaining, and thriving in employment. Morgan was joined by co-presenters and HDI colleagues, Johnny Collett and Austin Nugent for a panel discussion about advocacy and strategies to improve employment and awareness.

As an Employment First state, Kentucky is committed to supporting competitive integrated employment as the first and primary option for our citizens with disabilities, regardless of their level of disability. As the state’s University Center of Excellence on Disabilities, the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) has served as a major thought leader regarding the lived experiences of people with disabilities for over 50 years and is committed to improving the inclusion, independence, opportunity and contribution of people with disabilities and their families throughout the lifespan.

Johnny Collett, HDI Deputy Director, says “Morgan’s knowledge, skills, values, dispositions, and experiences demonstrate what it means to live out the mission of the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute. Additionally, his achievements and leadership in supporting other people with disabilities to be successful exemplify the promise of Kentucky’s Employment First policy and what we envision for all Kentucky citizens with disabilities”.

Learn more about Morgan’s Musings or contact Morgan.Turner@uky.edu.

Child reading a book with teacher.

Latest Fund for Excellence Awards: August 2019

The Human Development Institute (HDI) established the Fund for Excellence for the development of innovative programs, services or products to address the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. In the July, 2019 funding cycle, HDI awarded three Fund for Excellence projects:

  • Universally Designed Health Coaching Pilot with Danielle Augustin, Lindsey Mullis, and Morgan Turner
  • You Can Do So Many Things project with Caroline Gooden, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, and Brittany Granville
  • Disability in Public Health Training with Tony Lobianco and Donald Lollar

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