Partners for Youth with Disabilities is joyful to introduce our third and last (but certainly not least) Legends Honoree, Melissa M. MacDonnell, President of Liberty Mutual Foundation and Vice President of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Melissa sat down with us to discuss her career path and who inspired her journey along the way. She is an example of kindness. She defines herself through the impact she has on friends, family and mentees, not external accolades.
Even though she holds a prominent position at Liberty Mutual Foundation, Melissa describes herself as an introverted person. Her goal is to “keep her eyes on the prize” to help the most vulnerable in our communities. She thinks about the impact she can have by doing her job well; she holds great respect for Liberty’s CEO David Long who himself is deeply committed to the community, and in particular, accessibility and inclusion. Melissa’s courage and motivation come from her passion in giving back to the community. In addition to working at Liberty Mutual, she also serves on the boards of Horizons for Homeless Children and the Don and Marilyn Rodman Foundation. She is a member of the Leadership Advisory Board for Rosie’s Place, and is a volunteer at the Sudanese Community Center. For fifteen years, she acted as a big sister for a young woman from Germaine Lawrence, a residential treatment program for girls. She’s also served as a Vice Chair for both the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and Mass Mentoring Partnership, the Chair of Faith and Action at United Way, and as a board member of Bruce Wall Ministries. Think that’s all? Not even – Melissa has helped chair record-breaking fundraisers for the Big Sister Association, Whittier Street Health Center, Salvation Army, and Community Servings, and was also a participant in LeadBoston and Boston Women Build in the Bayou.
In recognition for her great contributions to the community, she’s been awarded the Women for Whittier Award, named to the YWCA’s Academy of Women Achievers, and listed as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Boston Magazine. While humbled by all of these honorable awards and incredible achievements, in her opinion, helping a woman from Sudan get her driver’s license is one of her greatest personal successes. Melissa has mentored the woman, who spoke very little English at the time. It took her four times to pass the permit test and seven tries to pass the road test–all to be able to drive a car– a task that for many of us, comes with the kind of freedom and liberation we often take for granted. Melissa understands the impact of aiding others in achieving even the smallest things, and because of that, she’ll continue to keep mentoring and supporting as many groups as possible. “[Your] dream always has to be bigger than a job,” Melissa advises young adults. “Follow [your] gut, and embrace who you really are.” Her dream, which included philanthropy, stems from her deeply compassionate family and her role model of a mom. Her own parents and family served as a host family welcoming in youth in addition to having ten kids of their own. Motivated by her parents’ caring words and deeds, she is dedicated to giving back to the community.
According to Melissa, PYD is succeeding in meeting the important needs of young people with disabilities and providing them with comprehensive programs to help them thrive. As a center for inclusion, PYD puts great efforts into reaching deeper into the community and encouraging more and more young people with disabilities to find their own identities.
Melissa appreciates that “PYD opens up an entire world for young people with disabilities.” PYD is humbled to have Melissa as our respectable honoree and to have this chance to recognize the greatness she has contributed to the community. We hope to see everyone on May 18th to join in the expression of gratitude to such an influential person.
This post was written by Juan Zhou, Jackie (Xiao) Yan, Olicia Mannion, and Mary Grace Alcaro of the BU PRLab. Edited by Nicole Malo.
Partners for Youth with Disabilities is honored to introduce our second PYD Legends Award recipient, Bill Schawbel. Bill is a man of many trades – aside from his new acclaimed title of PYD honoree, he also self identifies as an Intrepreneur, Entrepreneur, and General Manager.
Bill’s titles did not come effortlessly, making all of his achievements that much more impressive. He held senior management positions with The Gillette Company, including President of Gillette-Japan and President of Braun North America. He also was instrumental in areas of acquisitions and business development both in the United States and internationally. In 1981, he founded his own business, The Schawbel Corporation, and in the 35 years since, he has formed over 50 companies, many of which he has managed worldwide. In July of 2014, The Schawbel Corporation was sold and Schawbel Technologies LLC was established, which now includes consumer product development and research.
It all started with Bill’s mother, Esther Schawbel, who didn’t finish school. She was his mentor. She grew up on a farm, and drove tractors when she was twelve. She was an entrepreneur all of her life in the knitting business. She had a yarn store and taught knitting for over 70 years. In fact, Bill worked for her starting when he was six years old and got paid 10 cents an hour. One of his first jobs in the knitting store was as a hooker. He finished the hooking of the rugs! In her quiet way, she managed the house and also taught at the Jeremiah Burke School. The “Jerry” recently won a $100,000 prize from EdVestors for being the most improved school in Boston.
His involvement with nonprofit organizations is extensive and often times requires collaboration with global companies. Currently, Bill is involved with 23 non-profits, and he is quoted saying: “My philanthropy is geared towards three areas: education for all, diversity, and entrepreneurship.” Although he is a distinguished business man, he is constantly involved with and dedicated to philanthropy efforts, community outreach, and inclusion. He entered into the world of nonprofit work with knowledge from the corporate world, and since then, has been interested in implementing that knowledge in philanthropic endeavors and the consulting business. One of his goals is to “develop sustainable income for nonprofits using business people and strategy for generating revenue.”
One of Bill’s current efforts, which began in 2015 at Tufts University with Dr. Susan Roberts, focuses on developing approaches to preventing malnutrition and improving cognition and literacy in at-risk children. From their partnership, a patent has developed for a new food formulation for nutrition and cognitive enhancement, and the research team has been testing the food in villages in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa and in Boston. The preliminary results are extremely positive. Larger studies are underway, and Bill hopes to scale the project worldwide. Although this project will be a for-profit business, Schawbel says proceeds will go to those who are malnourished and sold to others who want to improve their nourishment and cognitive thinking.
He “feels flattered to be honored by PYD” because it is an organization that fits with all of his philanthropic interests. We can assure you though, Bill, that the honor is all ours.
We hope to see everyone on May 18th to join us in celebration with and honoring such a benevolent man. Tickets are still available – don’t miss out!
This post was written by Jackie (Xiao) Yan, Juan Zhou, Olivia Mannion, and Mary Grace Alcaro of the BU PRLab. Edited by Nicole Malo.
Developing an inclusion statement is one of the most powerful ways an organization can internally and externally demonstrate their commitment to inclusion. If inclusion is a priority for your organization, it’s vital to put that commitment on paper and let others know about it.
In this training, attendees learn the importance of an inclusion statement, discuss the steps to its development, review examples of inclusion statements, and learn how to recruit the right stakeholders throughout the approval process.
This workshop combines both a traditional presentation with a moderated session where the group will draft their organization’s inclusion statement.
In order to succeed in school and at work, youth and young adults with disabilities need to know how and when is appropriate to self-disclose and request accommodations. Supporting youth with disabilities around self-disclosure and self-advocacy can have positive lifelong impact for the youth in your program.
This train-the-trainer model will teach professionals and volunteers working with youth with disabilities how to facilitate self-advocacy workshops. This interactive workshop will include a panel discussion, group activities, and the opportunity to practice disclosure scenarios.
Attendees will gain an increased ability to articulate the meaning of self-advocacy, better understand of the Americans with Disabilities Act (including reasonable accommodations and undue hardships), learn strategies to support youth in disclosure, and gain knowledge of resources for supporting self-advocacy.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: you’ve put effort into designing your program or organization to be inclusive of people with disabilities, and yet, none show up! What do you do? How do you ensure you’re marketing to individuals with disabilities in a way that lets them know, “Hey! We’re a welcoming place that you should check out”?
In this training, participants will learn more to make their marketing inclusive and welcoming to youth with disabilities and their families. You’ll learn about inclusive language, alternative formats, accessible website design, and more.
If you want people with disabilities to feel welcome at your organization, your marketing is a key priority that you can’t neglect!