On a warm July morning at Walpole House, Thomas K. opens his laptop and greets his classmates online. For the next hour and a half, he and his peers learn about effective communication strategies and the importance of active listening.

The session is part of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong’s (MASS) Self-Advocacy Leadership Series, an eight-class workshop focusing on the fundamentals of leadership. Course content includes teamwork, negotiation, communication, problem-solving, self-awareness, and listening topics.

A cohort of adults with The Guild across different residences completed the series last summer.

“We learned how to express our feelings and use communication strategies like taking turns talking,” said Thomas.

MASS provides a wide range of programs and trainings to empower those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The organization’s mission is rooted in the disability rights rule “nothing about us without us,” and over 95% of workshop trainers have I/DD.

“The Self-Advocacy Leadership Series builds on The Guild’s work in ensuring that those we serve can successfully advocate for their needs when they’re out in the community,” said Maureen Costello-Shea, Chief Program Officer. “By developing partnerships with organizations like MASS, The Guild is fulfilling its mission of fostering independence and community inclusion for people with I/DD.”

A group of adults with The Guild also attended MASS’s annual conference last spring. The event featured workshops led by self-advocates, keynote speakers from the disability rights community, and opportunities for networking and social connection.

“It was an amazing event that showed how powerful it is to promote meaningful representation and relationship-building within the I/DD community,” said Isaiah Anjoh, Walpole House Manager.

As for Thomas, he’s looking forward to participating in more trainings with MASS in the future.

“The instructor was great, and it was fun to complete the course!” he said.