Adelaide P. Cota learned the hard way that there’s no better advocate than yourself. However, not many people know where to begin. They need the confidence and resources to get started. That’s where Cota comes in.

AP Cota

“I’m devoted to sharing my experiences with others so I can help them to advocate for themselves,” she says. “Whether it’s helping a homeless military veteran fill out a job application or finding resources for people who need mental health services, I’ll do the research and connect the people with what they need. I’ll lead them to water and hope they’ll drink.”

And, she does it all for free.

After a series of unfortunate events, Cota admits that she wished she had someone to help connect her with proper resources. She was struggling to find mental health resources for her mother, did a stint in prison and lost custody of her son. She was accused of welfare fraud, but most charges were dropped. During this time, her health and memory suffered.

In the midst of all this, she decided it was time to take action. Only she could be her best advocate. Now, she’s helping others to do the same.

So, what exactly does it mean to be a self-advocate?

“It means that you ask for what you need while respecting the needs of others,” she says.

Self-advocacy helps you to:

* Obtain what you need;
* Make your own choices;
* Learn to say no without feeling guilty;
* Express disagreement respectfully.

Cota says that people who want to master self-advocacy need to familiarize themselves with community resources first. They need to know who their local leaders, legislators and congress people are.

“It’s not easy to learn how to take the initiative,” she says, “but once you take that first step, it’s empowering when people start listening to you – and they will. It’s all about patience.”

Change takes time. Nothing good happens overnight.

“Understand your limitations and speak openly about your needs. Realize your strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “Ultimately, know when to ask for help. It’s all part of being a self-advocate.”

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