Local woman speaks about struggles, triumph of people with diverse abilities
Amber Logan, a 2005 Montoursville graduate, has experienced the highs and lows of living life with diverse abilities. For years, Logan walked with her head down. She rarely wanted to leave her house.
Flash forward to today. Now Logan not only walks with her head high, but she is ready for people to “HEAR” her story.
Hearing her story is exactly what those in attendance of the Arc rally in Harrisburg did when Logan delivered a speech with the theme, “HEAR ME,” to tell her story and to help encourage others with diverse abilities to share their stories, too.
“I think the purpose of the rally was to support people,” said Logan. “There were signs that said ‘All Lives Matter,’ to show that we are worth it.”
The Arc rally took place on June 11 and was set in the theme HEAR ME … INCLUDE ME … HIRE ME. The mission of Arc of Pennsylvania is to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and development disabilities, and more specifically helping them find a place in the community.
“Her topic was ‘hear me,’ “ said Diana Logan, Amber’s mother. “It was a great day. There were a lot of legislators there, I mean the Rotunda was packed with people … For me, it was exciting to watch the individuals because they were rallying for support for their everyday lives.”
Diana added the importance of the rally, which was to emphasize the importance of opening the door to people with diverse abilities to allow them to work in businesses or to volunteer.
“The purpose to go was to send a message that they have so much to give to our communities, but they need to be given the chance,” said Diana. “The struggle to find any kind of employment is very hard and so she has been asked by different groups in the area to speak at conferences about the struggle to not only just find her way in the community after graduation when everything fell apart, but also in where she fits.”
While Logan has now found her place in the community, it was not an easy journey to get there. Today, in reflection of her past highs and lows, Logan admits that her past classmates would have been shocked to see her standing before a crowd.
“I guess if you would ask the 2005 graduating class in Montoursville High School, they would say that I would be the last person to do any kind of public speaking,” said Logan. “You see in high school, I had no confidence in myself at all, I was very insecure and shy. I always walked with my head down.”
The insecurities sprouted from the labels that were put on her from the first day she walked into the doors, according to Diana. At birth, Logan was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, which caused the oxygen flow to be cut off leaving her with a brain injury. In school, Logan was labeled as a student with educational and intellectual “disabilities,” which acted as a label that made it harder for Logan to fit in and therefore decreasing her self-confidence. Her head slowly began to fall down.
Right out of high school, Diana looked for a local social agency to work with Logan to help with her transition from high school to college or to a place in the community. However, it did not go as planned.
“They came to my house and they were basically an epic fail,” said Logan. “I would shout out ideas for jobs and they would shoot them all down. I said, ‘I had it with you, I am done working with you’ and I walked away.”
Diana added that this was the point where mentally and emotionally Logan was falling downhill and reaching a state of depression. Following the meeting, they cut ties with the agency and today see it as one of the best decisions they ever made, according to Diana.
“I knew that God had a purpose for my life. I just wanted to figure out how to get there,” said Logan in her speech at the Arc Rally. “Believe me, that summer I was depressed. I didn’t want to leave the house. That fall, my aunt Linda arranged for me to start volunteering for American Rescue Workers Social Service Center.”
Realizing Logan’s strengths were working and interacting with people, her Aunt Linda even set up a desk in the front of the center for Logan to complete receptionist duties. This position was the start of the uphill climb for Logan’s confidence, which moved her over to East Lycoming YMCA, where she worked with the child watch program.
“By now, I was working both jobs and seeing all the gifts that I had all along,” said Logan.
Today, Logan has found her dream paid position as an Independent Monitoring for Quality (IM4Q) monitor for Advocacy Alliance. In her role, Logan travels with a team to interview people with diverse ability to identify their needs to improve their quality of life in a timely manner, according to Jennifer Andress, Community Services Specialist and Logan’s boss at Advocacy Alliance.
“Three years ago I reached my goal and I was hired by Advocacy Alliance as a surveyor. I travel with a team to group homes and state centers to interview individuals like myself to see what they need in their life,” said Logan. “I am the person they relate to. I love talking to these individuals and encouraging them. I see so many touching stories, and yes, they need to be heard too.”
Andress, who works closely with Logan, understands the importance of letting people with diverse abilities through the company door from her time with Logan. According to Andress, Logan is easy to relate to when interviewing people.
“She will share community resources with families and help in anyway she can,” said Andress. “She is so friendly and encouraging to the individuals that we serve. Most importantly, Amber spreads a message of hope and kindness when she is working.”
On top of her paid position, Logan is also the first person with diverse abilities to undergo the training and education to become a certified Drums Alive Master Trainer in the United States. With her certification, Logan teaches the class at Hope Enterprises with her head high.
“What does my everyday life look like? It is pretty awesome. I love being involved in my community. I have been the keynote speaker for three conferences,” said Logan. “My goal for that is that my voice would be heard and encourage others like myself.”
Diana said it’s important for success stories like Logan’s to be heard, but also wants to encourage others with stories of their experiences to step forward. Through sharing their own journey’s, it is Diana’s hope to bring awareness to the problem of businesses turning “Amber is there to encourage others, not to make herself sound like a success story. There are a lot of success stories, and we need to hear more about the individuals who are finding their way. Being capable and raising the bar. We need more opportunities here. We need more businesses to open their door.”
Logan also stresses the importance of making sure people do not use the word disability, because she does not like to “dis anyone’s abilities” as she stated in her rally speech.
“Those of us here today with diverse abilities need to have our voices heard. Our lives matter and we want to be an active part in our communities,” said Logan at the Arc rally. “I am now my own advocate for my everyday life. I no longer walk with my head down, I walk with my head up and I am proud to be me.”