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She may not be able to use notes, but amputee has message for at-risk youths

Julie Dombo, shown with her husband, John, says she’s still not used to her new electronic hands and that when she shuffles papers, she sometimes drops them, making her nervous about giving a speech without using notes.
Julie Dombo, shown with her husband, John, says she’s still not used to her new electronic hands and that when she shuffles papers, she sometimes drops them, making her nervous about giving a speech without using notes. File photo

Julie Dombo has spent weeks feeling a knot in her stomach, and not because she got shot and lost her hands and feet.

She’ll speak Saturday to at-risk youths and people who mentor them at the Developing Every Man’s Opportunity event taking place from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Wichita State University Metropolitan Complex.

She can’t take notes with her when she stands up to talk.

“My electronic hands, I’m still getting used to them,” she said. “When I shuffle papers sometimes, I drop things.” So this talk will have to come from her head – and make sense.

“I’m nervous, because when I first heard about this in February, I wondered what a 62-year-old white woman teacher who grew up on a farm in Illinois would have in common with African-American city kids,” she said. “I decided what I want to tell them is what we have in common – fear.”

She’s a former teacher and truancy officer, so this isn’t the first time she’s addressed an audience like this. She listed fears that young people worry about these days: “Who will take care of us and feed and clothe us? Are we going to have friends? Who wants to be with me? In high school – where do I belong? What’s happening at home? Do teachers actually care about me?”

In schools she worked at, Dombo sometimes heard frustrated teachers talking. “Get this kid out of my classroom,” some said. “I can’t teach with him in there.”

“And I’d say, that’s the kid who will one day be robbing your home while you’re here,” she said. She tried to keep those kids in school.

Her talk will start at noon Saturday at the WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. North.

Dombo was shot during the robbery of an AT&T store in Derby in 2015.

DEMO and Rise Up for Youth are youth mentoring organizations run by David Gilkey, who has won community accolades, mentoring young people after he recovered from drug addiction problems.

Tickets are $25 for ages 19 and older and can be bought at the door; for those under 19, $12.50.

The event is open to the public, Gilkey said. He uses the money to give scholarships and send young people on college tours, among other works.

Julie Dombo was shot during an attempted robbery at an AT&T store in Derby last August. Her injuries led to the amputation of her hands and feet. She and her husband John have faced numerous challenges since that day, but are both thankful Julie s

Julie Dombo speech

What: Julie Dombo speaks to the youth mentoring group Developing Every Man’s Opportunity.

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. North

Tickets: $25 at the door for ages 19 and older; $12.50 for those under 19

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