Preston Dwoskin does not let life's challenges slow him down.
The 20-year-old Marysville man with both hearing and developmental disabilities recently traveled to Olympia as a member of the Arc of Snohomish County
's leadership training program. Preston helped develop a position statement regarding the governor's proposed budget and its potential impact on citizens with disabilities, and stepped out as the group's leader, speaking with the media and "taking charge."
Preston is Jim Strickland's former student in the Marysville School District's Life Skills program, and graduated in 2010 as a member of Marysville-Pilchuck's largest graduating class, one of 637 students. He is currently enrolled in the 18-21 Transition Opportunities Program.
Strickland is proud of the young man's positive attitude and ambition, noting, "Preston is a great example of someone with a disability taking an active leadership role in our community, especially advocating for the rights of citizens with disabilities."
But Preston's focus is much wider than the scope of his disabilities, which includes significant hearing loss from birth-currently at 67 percent but getting worse. He volunteers to help with lunches for the homeless, is working to ban fireworks in the city limits, serves as an announcer for the Y's popular 360 breakdancing competition, and is planning a career in public service.
The young man's natural energy is a good fit for the Arc of Snohomish County
's Leadership Development Program, according to Kelly Church, the organization's Parent/Family Coalition Coordinator.
"He really stepped up during our Legislative Advocacy Workshop in Olympia in early December," said Church.
Together with more than 60 others, Preston helped formulate and communicate position statements on two major issues: the retention of respite care availability for family members, and Medicaid services for those with disabilities.
The leadership program consists of six multi-day workshops that address issues such as the history of developmental disabilities and the civil rights movement, learning about government resources, and understanding other cultures and communication. Participants receive training and support to effectively advocate for individuals with disabilities and to educate the community and state and local policy-makers.
Preston is somewhat unique, because his ambition is not just to influence policy-makers, but to be one. He got his first taste of running for elected office this year, as an avid volunteer for Jon Nehring's mayoral campaign.
"I met him [Nehring] at a Starbucks, and offered to wave signs for him," said Preston. "I thought he was a great communicator and a good leader. He gets the big picture and really listens to people. Plus, I like his buzz cut."
The mayor was grateful for his help and impressed with the young man's dedication.
"Preston devotes a significant amount of his energy and talents towards helping others and making this a better community for everyone," said Nehring. "He is a real inspiration and we are fortunate to have him here in Marysville."
Within the next five years, Preston would like to run for public office himself, probably seeking a City Council seat here in Marysville.
Nehring may be interested to know that Preston's ambitions include the office of mayor, but they don't stop there. In 20 years, he envisions himself working in Washington, D.C., as an advocate for jobs, education and fiscal responsibility.
"I'm here to fight for this community," said Preston. "Disabilities don't define me. They don't narrow my focus."