The 17th Annual Youth Summit

The Annual Youth Summit is a place for young people with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 30 from communities across the state of Florida to come together to learn, share, and network. This two-day event is hosted by The Florida Youth Council (FYC), a group of youth and emerging leaders with disabilities who have a passion for encouraging leadership and advocacy among their peers. The FYC is all about youth empowerment and youth involvement, and the entire Annual Youth Summit is planned by youth, for youth!
The 17th Annual Youth Summit will bring together over 200 youth and emerging leaders to attend engaging youth-only sessions on a wide variety of topics, including transition, workplace preparedness, and post-secondary schooling. We will have a great, youth-friendly keynote and fun activities at The Summit, including a dance party to cap off the festivities. There were plenty of opportunities for attendees to network, and share their thoughts, experiences, and aspirations.
The 17th Annual Youth Summit will be held at The Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando August 2-3, 2024. Limited financial assistance is available. If you are not requesting financial assistance, please contact The Florida Hotel and Conference Center directly at 407-859-1500 to make reservations. The room rate is $112 per night. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando in August!


“Getting youth and emerging leaders involved in self-advocacy, peer mentoring and other activities that will improve the quality of life for youth and emerging leaders with disabilities in the state of Florida.”

Alexander Gonzalez
-Lead FYC Member

The Annual Youth Summit

The FYC’s Annual Youth Summit began with a simple idea. Why not bring together youth and emerging leaders with disabilities for a two day event where they could network, learn, and have fun? The Annual Youth Summit would provide a unique environment where this could take place. Like our parent organization, The Family Cafe, The Florida Youth Council has always believed that well-informed people make the best possible decisions for themselves. Our Annual Youth Summit provides the opportunity to put that principle into action.

October Noodle Cover

New Publications Every Month!

Check our monthly publication called The Noodle! It’s got everything you need from important news to stories from our council members that will uplift you.

Need Help With Your IEP?

We’ve got you covered! This invaluable manual will give you all the information you need to successfully navigate your IEP and more!

Take the World by Storm!

This publication contains a collection of poems, short stories, thoughts and more by our very own Florida Youth Council! Purchase your copy of our book today! Make sure to note in the paypal transaction screen that the purchase is for the Take the World by Storm Book.

The Council

Serena Wetmore

Hi! My name is Serena Wetmore and I live in Jacksonville. I am currently going to college to pursue a degree in psychology. When I was in high school, I was inspired by my psychology class and interactions with many autistic students and decided to combine these two passions. I hope one day to be a psychologist who works with kids with autism. In my free time, I enjoy video games on my iPad, especially RPGs, as well as watching YouTube. I wish I could actually play the games instead of just watching videos of other people playing them, but because of my cerebral palsy, I can’t actually work the complicated controllers, so I made my own accommodation. Another activity I have enjoyed is joining my student government. I get to help plan events at the college, and have found that it is a good way to help influence the perception of disability on campus.

John Howard

I am John Howard and I live in Leon and Franklin Counties. I have been part of the Florida Youth Council since 2018, and I love being a member of the FYC!! I graduated in 2020 from Tallahassee Community College with an Employment Credential in the Humanities track. Since 2019, I have worked at Hands and Hearts for Horses, a therapeutic riding stable located in Thomasville, Georgia. I am a barn assistant and mend fences, clean stalls, clean and refill water buckets, patrol trails, feed goats, and volunteer with therapeutic riding lessons. I also have my own horse, “19,” stabled at Lazy Triangle D Ranch. My future goal is to be a barn manager and/or a horse trainer. My interests are riding horses, shooting pool, working on my laptop, playing the piano, harmonica, and guitar, and driving my car. I like to swim and bike on St. George Island and I also frequently ski and hike in Canada.

Alexander Gonzalez

Hello, my name is Alexander Gonzalez and I am the Lead Member of the Florida Youth Council. I am 24 years old and I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am currently working on my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Polk State College. As of right now, I am currently working as a disability rights advocate. As a leader of this organization, I will help provide leadership and advocacy for people in the disability community around the state. When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I didn’t understand what Autism was or how it would impact my life. I did struggle in school in reading, writing, and proper communication. My teachers at the time didn’t understand how to work with a student like me. In the end, with all the hardships and limitations, I didn’t let my disability define who I am. Before I joined the FYC, I volunteered at a food pantry at a local Catholic church and volunteered at Special Olympics. I love playing video games, live streaming, and talking about sports. I do live broadcasts from time to time about anything from current events or sports. My dream is to one day write and direct a feature film and put it on the big screen. 

Leah Gorman

Hi, my name is Leah Gorman, I joined the Florida Youth Council to empower youth to stand up and say no to the people who are trying to get in their way because of their disabilities. Also, I love to read and do others things. I also spread the word about disability advocacy to the doctors in my community, and they are spreading it to their child patients with disabilities.

Derek Carraway

My name is Derek, and I’m from Tallahassee. I’ve been a member of the FYC since November 2010 and I love it! Currently, I’m our lead alumni member.  I enjoy going camping, going to the beach, going to church, listening to country music, and spending time with my family and friends. I like watching TV, especially sit-coms and college football broadcasts. I bleed garnet and gold. I graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Information Technology and now currently work full-time at my alma mater in their IT Services department. I’m also newly married and I’m enjoying every second of married life with my beautiful bride!  In addition to being on the Florida Youth Council, I volunteer in the media department at my church and lead my church’s scout group, the Royal Rangers. My involvement in all of these things keeps me quite busy these days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It allows me to continue to grow as a leader, and shows others that I don’t let my disabilities stop me from doing anything I want to do!

JJ Humphrey

Hi Everyone! I’m JJ, an actor, singer, and high school student from Central Florida. I became an FYC member in 2020 during the pandemic. Acceptance and inclusion are very important to me, and are something for which I advocate!! In my free time I play video games, fish, swim, and go to theme parks. I’m a huge Star Wars fan!! I love being an actor in DramaTime Live, where we go to second grade classrooms to teach the art of storytelling through drama. I also really love helping with Out of the Box, a theatre troupe with unique abilities! I really enjoy acting on camera, on stage, and in voice over! I’m Burt in the web series School Bus Diaries. I hope to use my voice to help others.

Shevie Barnes

My name is Shavaughn Barnes and I am from Jacksonville FL. I have been a part of the Florida Youth Council for seven years. I have been a part of the disability community for life. I was born with cerebral palsy and this has been the driving force for my disability advocacy. In 2018, I was named Ms. Wheelchair Florida. This gave me the ability to take my journey into the disability world more seriously. I was given a platform to share my concerns with the world. I chose to use that to educate the world on how it is to live as a person with a disability. As my life goes on, I want to continue the work of educating those who want to learn about what life is like. The Florida Youth Council is part of my journey and I want to continue to have that family of friends. I want to be a part of the group who is able to help others as well. The Florida Youth Council is a way to be a part of change in the world. As part of the Council, you not only get a chance to lead, but you learn how to fight for what you want as well.  

Josue Tapia

Hello my name Josue Tapia and I currently live in Orlando Florida. I enjoy playing video games, reading history books and playing with my dog. I work at Petco as an assistant groomer working with dogs. I think I’m the only bilingual member on the council and the only Hispanic at that. Its fun to have that out the box opinion. I’ve been on the council for about 7 years and its been a great experience for me. I’ve met many people going through different paths of life with different disabilities and I heard their stories of triumph and hard work. I’ve enjoyed my years on the FYC and I hope to have many more making a difference.

Christina Waldron

Christina resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida.  She has been a member of the Florida Youth Council since 2012.  She also participates in Solar Flair, a local rock band created through ProjectFREE’s music program.  She does theater performances with the Rising Starz Theater group annually.  Christina also makes her own artwork, which she sells online and at local community events. In addition, she coaches in a bowling league for people with disabilities.  She has been working as the Altar Server and teaching Faith Formation classes at Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church of Gulfport, FL for the last 10 years.

Catalina Andonie

Hi, my name is Catalina Andonie and I’m from Jacksonville, FL! I am a part of the Florida Youth Council. A little about myself, I enjoy writing as a hobby; I have a blog on Instagram and do some journaling on the side. I speak Spanish and enjoy hanging out with my friends whether it’s during our weekly college group meetings doing sports activities or studies. I especially look forward to going hiking with them on our yearly trip. I spend the rest of my free time as a volunteer at concerts with Food for the Hungry, Compassion International, or other children’s organizations, and I also volunteer at other events around my community with my family!

James Kuhlman

Hello, my name is James Kuhlman, I live in Orlando Florida. I am kind, fun, and smart once you get to know me. Whenever I have the chance to help others, I always take the opportunity. I am a member of 4-H and ScubaNauts. ScubaNauts is an organization of teenagers that go scuba diving all over the world accomplishing different missions while helping teenagers become leaders of the future, sometimes we get to work with scientists, talk to national people at huge conferences, and a lot more. In my spare time I make crafts to show at the Florida state fair and Central Florida fair and I even show rabbits there. In my spare time I volunteer with different organizations like Avian Reconditioning Center where I work with and teach about birds of prey like hawks, Central Florida Zoo where I teach about the many animals at the zoo and maybe I will be able to handle some of the animals to show the public, Tampa Bay watch and other environmental organizations like ScubaNauts were I help clean the environment and help protect the environment, and a lot more. I feel anyone can do anything if they work hard for it. I feel this because I have ADHD and possibly high functioning Autism and the way I have been able to do all this is because I have been working hard to find ways to pay for them; like earning scholarships, I put in a lot of effort, so I am able to continue what I am doing, and more. I have been acknowledged for my hard work multiple times by many people and I plan on continuing the hard work no matter what.

Vanessa Muniz-Pellicer

My name is Vanessa Muniz-Pellicer, I live in Miami, Florida and this was the first year I participated with Family Café leading me to become a new addition to the Florida Youth Council. I am a 26-year-old First-Generation Cuban- American, proud to be a Multi-racial, neurodivergent woman with a passion for advocacy. As a person with disabilities, I have learned how to overcome adversity and acheive even higher than the neurotypical people around me. After graduating high school with a 4.8 GPA in 2014, I went to college at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where I was a part of the Center for Multi-Cultural Advancement and Student Success. I have also been part of organizations like Best Buddies of South Florida and YWCA of Greater Miami, working within my community to fight against discrimination and racism. I now have an Associate of Arts in Biology and am still in school focused on gaining my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences someday. In my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my family, playing music and singing; I am very artistic, so I also dabble in photography and abstract mixed media. I hope with this opportunity I will be able to work with like-minded individuals who understand the need for equality and the need to advocate for those with disabilities. “I am different, not less.”

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top