By Leonard Smith, Independent Living Advocate, ABILITY360
Photo by Loren Worthington
Valentina Tarango has been an Ability360 consumer since 2011, and she has truly embraced the Independent Living philosophy. When she moved from Michigan to Tempe, Arizona in 2010, she was learning how to live with memory complications, a speech impediment, and partial paralysis as a result of a stroke. Living with family can be a good thing, but can sometimes be enabling and prevent a person from achieving his or her fullest potential. When Valentina became an Ability360 consumer, her primary goals were to learn and utilize the public transportation system, (bus and light rail), participate in a volunteer capacity, and move into an apartment independent of family members.
With a relentless and undaunting spirit that was probably cultivated from time served in the United States Army as a Paratrooper, Valentina has gone above and beyond her original set of goals. Today she lives in her own apartment. She completed Ability360 volunteer and a peer mentor orientation, graduated from the Independent Living Leadership Academy, and volunteers in many capacities to help ensure the success of numerous Ability360 events. She serves on the Independent Living Council as part of the Liaison Committee, and she also volunteers with the Brain Injury Alliance, helping wherever needed.
Recently, Valentina volunteered at the Arizona Youth Leadership Forum, where she spent a week with young adults with disabilities, assisting with classes and events they attended. She was a mentor through the learning process for these young adults, ranging from 18 to 25 years of age. Valentina enhanced the youths’ experiences as they attended workshops, classes and field trips focused on learning leadership and independent living skills.
Valentina will embark on the next step of her journey in the coming months as she moves to Georgia, where she will be closer to her daughter and two grandchildren. She recognizes that she will be able to incorporate all that she has learned about independent living to any challenges and opportunities she tackles in Georgia. Valentina expressed her desire to get involved at a Center for Independent Living, where she can continue developing leadership skills in herself and others. “I want to be involved in volunteering and peer mentoring. I would really like to serve as a peer mentor for someone else who is working to achieve independence,” says Valentina. A regular at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center, Valentina expressed how much she was going to miss the gym. “I hope to find something in Georgia like I found here.”
Valentina continues to seize all opportunities, and resources, available to her. In addition to researching Centers for Independent Living in the Georgia area, she recently registered with the Veterans Administration (VA) Vocational Habilitation Services, as she is determined to find employment. Valentina has truly demonstrated the meaning of “giving back” through dedicated volunteerism and leadership at Ability360 and in the community. Likewise, we know that she will continue in this role…in Georgia, or any other destination she graces along life’s journey. Wherever Valentina goes, she can be certain that she is always considered part of the Ability360 family.
Find out more about Ability360’s Independent Living programs: