People First of Tennessee, Inc. is a 501 (C) (3) statewide grassroots disability rights organization run by and for people with disabilities. Our mission is to provide a means for people with disabilities to air and alleviate their concerns in the areas of housing, education, employment, and transportation. Together, People First members and volunteers:
- Travel statewide to teach youth and adults with disabilities about their legal rights and responsibilities, leadership development, and self-determination.
- Speak up for the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.
- Provide leadership, public speaking, and empowerment training
- Create community service projects run by people with disabilities who want to help others in their community
- Oversee the implementation of court orders for the development of community services for individuals with intellectual disabilities who reside Tennessee’s state-run institutions as an outcome of People First of Tennessee v. Arlington Developmental Center and People First of Tennessee v. Clover Bottom Developmental Center.
- Serve on state, regional, and national policy making bodies.
People First members have learned self-determination and self-advocacy in a number of People First projects. Several of these programs have focused on educating students with disabilities about self-determination and community inclusion.
- The Community Volunteer Program placed students and adults with disabilities as volunteers in serving the homeless, children and the elderly. Volunteers provided over 6,000 hours of community service and served as a model for the Metro Nashville schools’ shift to community based transition services for youth with disabilities.
- The High School Self-Determination Project funded by the U.S. Department of Education resulted in a published curriculum focusing on 20 self-determination skills viewed important to successful transition from high school to adult life.
- In partnership with the NAACP in Murfreesboro, low-income youth participated in a summer program designed to provide them with mentorship and opportunities to experience pre-employment career development.
People First has been the recipient of numerous community awards including: the Davidson County 1990 and 1993 Mayor’s awards for Outstanding Organization serving People with Disabilities. In 1989, the program received a proclamation from Governor McWherter recognizing its “Outstanding Service to Tennessee.”
Membership in People First is open to any Tennessean with a disability — physical or mental. Membership includes all ages from teens to seniors. People First is governed entirely by people who have disabilities who are elected by its membership.