Meet the ECAC Staff – Billy Pickens
What brought you to ECAC and tell us about your current role?
I have been around ECAC for about nine years since my mom’s employment and finding my passion for advocating for youth with disabilities. I have shared my experiences as a young person with a disability in a variety of settings and in 2020, I was hired as ECAC’s Youth Outreach Coordinator. In this role, I help youth with disabilities across the state find their voice and advocate for wants/needs in all aspects of their lives. This goal is reached through multiple platforms including our youth-led newsletter where any NC youth with a disability ages 5 to 25 can submit content and our youth-led podcast. We also have two incredible Youth Advisory teams comprised of youth across the state from ages 10 to 26 who assist in growing our outreach and share their story both virtually and in person with everyone from teachers to other youth with disabilities.
Why do you love being a part of ECAC?
While I am someone with many personal goals, my biggest goal in life has always been to inspire others to achieve theirs. For this reason, I love ECAC’s mission to empower families and improve lives. I am grateful to be part of an organization that presents me with opportunities to do this on a daily basis. As a person with a disability, it is also an honor working with others who have disabilities themselves and/or have family members with disabilities. They are patient with me as I navigate this role and are quick to assist me in any way they can.
What is the most memorable event you have attended with ECAC?
I have been fortunate to be part of so many memorable events related to ECAC. However, the one that comes to mind immediately took place in April at a Special Needs mini-conference in Rowan County. I along with one of our Junior Youth Advisory Team members (ages 10 to 13) were representing the student perspective on a parent/student panel discussing our experiences in the school system. My partner was really nervous and unsure about sharing his story in a room full of people. However, with some encouragement, he did and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. It was a surreal moment for me because as much as I like to share my story, it was an example of me witnessing another young person finding the confidence to share their own.
What keeps you motivated and inspired?
I am inspired daily by the youth I serve and the experiences of my colleagues. We all come from, diverse backgrounds and face many different challenges. However, it is their positive attitude and willingness to overcome their obstacles that inspires me to do the same in my own life each and every day. I am also inspired, knowing that others find value in what I have to say, and what I bring to the table. Sometimes it can be easy to forget the impact you are having, and you can get so lost in the work of everyday living. However, I am grateful to have so many people who uplift me every day, both through their words and actions.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to the parents you work with?
The one piece of advice I would give to parents I work with is to stay strong and remember that you are not alone. I love this organization because I believe it is a platform for parents and students alike to build community. I believe connection is more needed than ever right now, and so many parents could be one resource or one connection away from their child’s experience being changed.
Tell us more about your life outside of ECAC.