Living Well in Community graduates first class since before COVID

The Spring 2023 Living Well in Community class celebrates its graduation! From Left: facilitator Tanya Thomas, students Darren Abel and Christine Burkhart and facilitator Tara Robison.

The Spring 2023 Living Well in Community class celebrates its graduation! From Left: facilitator Tanya Thomas, students Darren Abel and Christine Burkhart, and facilitator Tara Robison.

The LIFTT team in Billings recently completed the first in-person session of the “Living Well in Community” workshop (LWC) held by the agency for over three years. Two students, Christine Burkhart and Darren Abel made their way through the ten-week course under the guidance of co-facilitators Tara Robison and Tanya Thomas.

Developed by the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana, LWC focuses on setting and achieving quality-of-life goals. While progressing through the sessions students were asked to:

  • Identify what is meaningful to them and then set quality-of-life goals around ways they want to make their lives better.
  •  Make progress toward the goals they set by applying problem-solving skills and managing emotions like frustration and discouragement, feelings that can get in the way of reaching goals.
  • Discover tools and skills that can make goal achievement easier like communicating effectively and finding important resources.
  • Explore ways to improve their overall health by changing daily habits.
  • Practice self-advocacy and systems advocacy to help them make changes that can support them and others in living well.

“The class and the strategies that Tara and Tanya taught us really helped me,” said Burkhart who came to live in Billings after growing up in Illinois; “I now know that when life hits like a Midwest thunderstorm can make plans and decisions that are best for me without substituting the approval, judgment, and opinions of others for my own.”

Abel who is a long-time part of LIFTT’s peer program and has taken previous versions of the course under its former name of “Living Well with a Disability” was impressed with the evolution of the program he saw in LWC particularly the replacement of textbooks with digital presentation materials “The new version is much more interactive and participatory than then the old version with books;” he said.

Robison and Thomas say that they plan to continue offering LWC at the LIFTT Billings office on a quarterly basis and that they are now working to complete facilitator training in a companion curriculum all about building independent living skills entitled “Community Living Skills” (CLS) which they hope to be able to offer for this first time this summer. Members of the Glendive LIFTT team are also undergoing facilitator training for both courses and are looking forward to bringing them to the eastern portion of the agency’s service area later in 2023.

Keep up with LIFTT’s website, mobile app, and social media channels for details about dates, times, locations, and registration information for upcoming workshops.

About Living Independently for Today & Tomorrow (LIFTT): LIFTT is a Montana 501(c)3 corporation organized as a Center for Independent Living (CIL). With team members based in Billings and Glendive, LIFTT provides people with disabilities with programs and services that help empower them to break down the physical, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers that prevent them from being fully independent participants in their lives and communities throughout 18 counties in southeastern and southcentral Montana: Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Dawson, Fallon, Garfield, Golden Valley, McCone, Musselshell, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Stillwater, Wibaux, and Yellowstone. For more information, please visit or download our mobile app on Apple or Google Play.

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