The “Open Your Mind” Peer Group

Hi, my name is Brianne. I am 23 years old, and I am co-founder of the Open Your Mind Peer Group. Here is the story of how the peer group came to be.

In 2008 I was accepted into a Youth Leadership Program in Sacramento. After witnessing firsthand all of the help and support that was given to the other young adults with differing abilities, I wanted to be able to help and support others in the same way.  The Peer Group is designed to be a space where people with differing abilities can practice and learn how to stand up for themselves, advocate for their own personal beliefs, and share their wisdom with others.  I started the peer group for people with differing backgrounds, abilities, and beliefs. I felt that this was very important because I wanted the group to be diverse and judgment-free.   I wanted the peer group to be all inclusive, not just for young adults, but for any and all people with differing abilities to come and discuss topics that are important to them.

I wanted to start a group for people with differing abilities so that they could know that they are not alone. Coming from personal experience, I know what it is like to feel different and pushed aside. Marnie, my Monarch ILS staff, helped me create a vision for the peer group’s mission and goals. Together we created ground rules and worked on finding a location for the group to meet.  At the first meeting we opened up discussion to all attendees.  People added ideas for ground rules, group activities, and topics they wanted to discuss. At each meeting we have a central topic that we discuss that is agreed upon at the previous meeting. A volunteer facilitator or a group of facilitators lead the discussion on the chosen topic.  The discussion is centered on asking questions and seeking wisdom from each of the participants in the group, rather than lecturing. This reflects the mission to have an all-inclusive peer group where every one’s personal experiences are honored.

The Peer Group takes place the last Tuesday of every month, at the Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz from 3:30 to 5pm.  Some of the topics we have covered and plan to cover are: healthy relationships, obsession, self-advocacy, Internet safety, good vs. bad habits, community safety, and dating and sexuality

If you have any questions or want to find out more, feel free to contact Marnie at:

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