SERC Programs

Special Education Youth Advisory Council


The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), Bureau of Special Education (BSE) and the State Education Resource Center (SERC) are pleased to announce the 5th year of our Special Education Youth Advisory Council, which is designed to increase student involvement in the special education process and to help students develop strong, effective leadership skills in order to make positive changes in their school and community.

The purpose of the Special Education Youth Advisory Council is to:

1. Create a structure in which students with disabilities (middle and high school) can share their special education experiences and increase their capacity to make informed decisions regarding their educational programming;
2. Increase public awareness of the valuable role that student voice and increased student independence, can play in the lives of students, families, and communities; and
3. Inform the Special Education Division Director on issues that are important to students receiving
special education services.

This Special Education Youth Advisory Council is designed to reach students who may not typically have an opportunity to share their voice. We look forward to working with district/school-based partners to ensure that the group represents diverse student perspectives.


  • Participate in a (virtual) focus group to share their school experience (November-January)
  • Receive two (virtual) student leadership trainings (February-April)
  • Attend the Annual Youth Leadership Summit (May)


  • Over the past 5 years, we have had over 300 students and 19 school districts participated.
  • Youth Advisory Council Students shared that the youth advisory council helped them feel more confident and more comfortable advocating for themselves.
  • Students have said that they decided to continue participating because they felt it allowed them to connect with other students and gave them a voice.
  • One student shared that, after attending the youth symposium, “I will be speaking up for those with disabilities who may not have a voice or is afraid to speak up. I want to serve as a voice for all students”.
  • Students have participated as panel members during a PPT Leadership Institute series, sharing their perspective on the PPT process and how to improve it.
  • In the past, students have provided feedback and suggestions for the IEP document revisions.
  • Alumni from the Council, are working with current MS/HS students to share their experiences after graduating.
  • Students on the council this year will be teaching other students self-advocacy skills and how to lead their PPT meetings.
  • Upperclassman are mentoring younger students around self-advocacy and how to be successful in school.


If you are interested in learning more about the Youth Advisory Council or signing your students up, please contact Nicole M. Vitale at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Back to School Celebration for Students
Why Not You! Featuring: Jordan Toma
Date: October 14, 2021
Time: 9:00 am to 11:00 am

This virtual back-to-school celebration is specifically for students across the state who have an IEP. Jordan Toma, the speaker for the day, started an organization called I’m Just a Kid with an IEP. Jordan has a strong and inspiring message for students with disabilities. His story is geared toward middle and high school students and their parents and teachers. Jordan’s life has been a rollercoaster with his "Learning Disability" as it controlled his confidence and impacted his outlook on life for the first 18 years. He let it define him; it became a permanent label stuck to his shirt every day. He shares his college experiences that helped him begin to see himself in a new light. It led him to share that, "If you change the way you see yourself, I promise you’ll change the way you see the world. I’ll always just be a kid with an IEP and proud of it! It’s your turn! His objective is to create the foundations of the belief, the confidence, the work ethic and everything that you need to become the best you can be now and not let anything ever get in your way. "I needed who I am now, to walk into my school when I was younger," Jordan says. "And now I will be that person for someone else."

To register, please use the following link:
For more information please contact Nicole Vitale at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.