Self-Advocates Making a Statement: Meet April Kloepfer
My name is April Kloepfer, and I am 31 years old. I was born in New York City and currently live with my parents in Setauket. I have also lived in Connecticut and Ohio. I have participated in OPWDD’s Self-Direction program for many years.
I got to know Citizens Options Unlimited when I went to Camp Loyaltown for the first time in the summer of 2019, and fell in love with it. Jerri Walker worked at camp at that time and Jerri was the first person to introduce me, first to Camp Loyaltown and, later, to all of the other services offered by Citizens Options Unlimited and AHRC Nassau.
Camp Loyaltown relies on young adults from other countries to staff the camp each summer. In 2021, I led an effort to increase awareness for J-1 cultural exchange visas — which are the visas that need to be issued to international students and others to come to the United States and work at camp. I made over twenty T-shirts that said, “Save J-1 Visas, Cultural Exchange,” and also wrote letters to President Biden, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Representative Zeldin requesting the reinstatement and faster processing of these visas.
In recognition of my efforts, I was awarded the Citizens Options Unlimited 2021 Self-Advocate of the Year and received a plaque from Citizens, which now hangs on my bedroom wall.
For almost two years, I have been volunteering with Jerri. I help her with office work, organizing documents, making flyers, signing people in, and sometimes making phone calls. With my mom and dad, I have attended volunteer events to fight food and clothing insecurity on behalf of needy families on Long Island — including the January 16, 2023, Martin Luther King Day event in Glen Cove.
When I was asked to make a “Voice for Choice” presentation for Compass Week Voice on May 10, 2023, Lynne Brewer shared some of the topics she thought the accreditors would be interested in. With the help of my mom and dad, I wrote down some notes that I used when I presented at the Compass event. It was exciting to make a presentation in front of so many people and I was glad that it went well.
To me, self-advocacy means speaking up for yourself and also speaking up for others who need your support. Through self-advocacy, I have grown more self-confident.
My goals are to get a part-time job; continue my volunteering with Jerri; do some more traveling, especially to Europe (my family really enjoyed our trip to Ireland a few years ago); make some new friends; and have some different and better life experiences.
My support team includes my mom and dad; my Aunt Sue; my horse-trainer and best friend, Lisa Zimmerman; Allison Lee, my care manager; and Kelly Wallace, my broker.