Exploring Access To Theatre 2016, Week 1

In 2014, after attending my first Youth Leadership Forum, Deep introduced me to PYD’s Access To Theatre (ATT) program, where young adults ages 13 to 24 with and without disabilities express themselves through the use of movement and the arts. When I first attended, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’ve been involved in theatre in one way or another through my middle school or high school, but never with a full group of people with disabilities.

What I soon discovered, however, was that it was among one of the most important and transformative experiences of my life so far. The people I met were really nice, very welcoming, and encouraging of others to express themselves in however way they want. In fact, I came up with the name of the show that year, “Mission Im-boxable”, which every single person voted for. It was amazing to me, and I felt like my voice was really heard within this community in particular. The following year, I did not return to ATT because of a difference in timing and wanting to have a different focus for my summer that year.

This summer, after 2 years away, I return once again to the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. I went into the open and echo-y space almost with a rush of deja vu, because I did it for so many days the last time I was there, and it felt really good to be back. We all gathered in a circle in the middle of the space and began our first day with early morning artistic exercises that consisted of creative movement such as stretching from side to side, shaking your arms, legs, hips, and what not, and walking around in different ways before freezing. Afterwards, Dell who is a volunteer mentor musician, lead a rhythm and beat exercise with each of the participants using instruments to work and ignite our “active listening” abilities.

At the end of each session, we gather once again around the circle and do what’s known as “rose and thorn” which is to share with the group a highlight of the day’s activities and/or a challenge that can be improved upon for next time, or shared so other people can be aware.

Right now, going into the second week of the program, we are quickly gaining traction forming this year’s show, as of right now we haven’t decided on a name as of yet, but there will be separate announcements to come of what that will be (gotta keep some stuff secret, right?).

Please join us on Friday, 7/29 at 1pm and 6pm for the performances! Here’s more information on the performances.

Jake DeMasi

Jake DeMasi joins PYD’s team as a Mentoring Specialist. Previously, he served as an AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring and as an Adult Adviser of a group-mentoring organization in his native MetroWest. Jake’s background of community engagement, direct mentoring, and policy analysis equips him well for PYD’s mission to empower young people. A lifelong community servant, his person goal is to change the world through advocacy and fighting for equity.

A 2015 graduate of Bentley University, Jake obtained a BA in Public Policy Analysis with a secondary major in Business Management. At Bentley, Jake was a force for gender, racial, and sexual equality and considers it among his greatest achievements. He endeavors to continue his education by enrolling in non-profit leadership and social work programs.

In addition to his role at PYD, Jake is a board member of AmeriCorps Alums Boston chapter. His role allows him to continue advocating for capacity-building service, while supporting his fellow Corps members. He is also an advocate for racial equity, LGBT rights, and intersectionality and gives frequent trainings and talks regarding such. Jake lives in Holliston, MA who’s community he credits with empowering him to succeed.

Mentors and Organizations Inducted into Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame

BOSTON, MA (July 14, 2016) – [National Disability Mentoring Coalition], The National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) has named 17 individuals and four organizations as inductees into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.  Selection criteria included demonstrated commitment to mentoring and the impact of contributions on improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Substantial research has shown that mentoring is a critical element in helping youth from diverse backgrounds transition to independent adulthood and successful careers.  For youth with disabilities, mentoring is even more critical because most come from families that have no experience with disability and there are few role models to follow.  The NDMC established the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame to highlight the importance of mentoring to people with disabilities and to honor individuals and organizations that provide exemplary service.

The Class of 2016 Hall of Fame inductees are:


  • Bob Vetere, Northrop Grumman Corporation (Mentor of the Year)
  • Alethea Alphonsah, Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries
  • Jeanne Argoff, Disability Funders Network (Retired)
  • Kathleen Brockway, Author, Consultant, Researcher
  • Mary Brougher, Bender Consulting Services, Inc.
  • Nancy J. Bazanchuk, Community Advocate & Adaptive Recreation Mentor
  • Daniel Davis, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Claudia Gordon, US Department of Labor
  • Renee Kirby, Temple University Disability Resources and Services
  • Mathew McCollough, District of Columbia Developmental Disabilities Council
  • Donna Meltzer, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
  • Christina Mills, CA Foundation for Independent Living Centers – Youth Organizing! Disabled
    and Proud
  • Kathy Petkauskos, Work Without Limits, UMass Medical School
  • Alicia Reagan, Spinal Network Trident Breeze Group & Blogger
  • Regina Snowden, Partners for Youth with Disabilities
  • Jeff Weinstein, Community Advocate, Partners for Youth with Disabilities Mentor
  • Anita Wright, Northrop Grumman Corporation

Mentoring Programs

  • Eye to Eye (Mentoring Program of the Year)
  • Massachusetts Commission for the Blind Project LENS
  • Partners for Youth with Disabilities
  • Vanderbilt University Next Steps Ambassadore Program

Inductees will also be honored at a number of events between July and November 2016, including:

  • American Association of People with Disabilities ADA Celebration, July 13, Washington, DC
  • Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum, Career Mentor Luncheon, July 13, Bridgewater, MA
  • National Council on Independent Living ADA Social, July 27, Washington DC
  • US Business Leadership Network National Conference, September 22, Orlando, FL
  • US Department of Agriculture National Disability Employment Awareness Month Event, September 27, Washington, DC
  • Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0, City University of New York (CUNY) LEADS Event,
    October 31, New York, NY
  • Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Full Access Summit,
    November 18-19, 2016, Cambridge, MA

Background information on the inductees and more details regarding the events are available online at www.disabilitymentors.org.

Sponsors for NDMC and the Hall of Fame are Cornell University Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, New Editions Consulting, and PolicyWorks.

About the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame: The Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame was established in 2015 as a legacy to Susan M. Daniels, who devoted her life to improving the lives of people with disabilities. As a person with a disability who achieved enormous professional and personal success, Dr. Daniels had significant impact as a senior policy maker, as an inspirational speaker and teacher, and as a mentor to hundreds of individuals.

Last year, the NDMC named 25 outstanding leaders as the first inductees into the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame – 25 champions marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2016 and in years to follow, nominations for the Hall of Fame are solicited across the country, with finalists chosen by the NDMC Selection Committee.

About the National Disability Mentoring Coalition: The mission of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition is to increase the awareness, quality and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities across the nation. Members include more than 30 non-profit organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, foundations and corporate entities. Learn more about the NDMC and its members at: www.disabilitymentors.org.

Christina Mills Inducted into the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame

The Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame was established by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) to honor those individuals who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring and to raise awareness about the importance of mentoring for individuals with disabilities.

We are proud to induct Christina Mills into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

Christina Mills, is the Deputy Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and has been an active member of the disability rights community since her involvement in the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities in 1995.

Born in San Diego, California, Christina began her post-secondary education while simultaneously pursing her career in Independent Living. In 1999 she began working for the Independent Living Center of Orange County, the Dayle McIntosh Center. She went on to work for Access 2 Independence in San Diego and served in a number of various positions over the five years she was there.

In 2001 she was appointed by the California Governor to serve on the State Independent Living Council. As a young professional she also served as chair of the National Council on Disability, Youth Advisory Committee and was a Project Consultant for the National Family Voices, Kids as Self Advocates (KASA) program.

In 2006 Christina left San Diego to work for the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers as the Statewide Community Organizer of the Systems Change Network. She has lead the organizing and planning of Disability Capitol Action Day for seven years and is a co-founder CFILC’s youth organizing program, Youth Organizing (YO!) Disabled & Proud.

In 2008, she was awarded Regional IX “Advocate of the Year” by the National Council on Independent Living and awarded the California Coalition for Youth Sue Matheson Mentoring Award in 2011.

Christina is an advocate, an activist, a wife, a mother of two young children, a part-time blogger, novice photographer, a serious scrapbooker and also identifies as disabled and proud.

Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame: Information and Inductees

Next Steps Ambassadores Program Inducted into the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame

The Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame was established by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) to honor those individuals who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring and to raise awareness about the importance of mentoring for individuals with disabilities.

We are proud to induct the Next Steps Ambassadores Program into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

The purpose of the Next Steps at Vanderbilt Ambassadores organization is to support Vanderbilt University’s Next Steps students as they complete their certification requirements. The mission of the Next Steps program is to provide transformational learning experiences, within an inclusive educational setting, for young adults with intellectual disabilities, university students, faculty, staff, and community leaders. An Ambassadore is someone who is a peer mentor of the highest quality who serves as a role model and person of support to the Next Step student he or she works with for 2-4 hours per week. The Ambassadores members support the Next Steps students in the areas of academics, program requirements, and social skills through building positive and trusting relationships by helping in the roles of daily planner, tutor, lunch buddy, or workout buddy.

The Ambassadore organization is led by 5 executive board members and roughly 8-10 Ambassadores for each student of the Next Steps program, one of whom serves as the Lead Ambassadore. These 8-10 peer mentors make up each student’s circle of support, which also includes any of their other sources of support (family members, Next Steps staff, behavior specialists, etc.). The Lead Ambassadore acts coordinates efforts and communication for their respective circle of support, such as helping their paired Next Steps student plan a social event for the entire circle. This person centered structure creates a more transparent communication style, resulting in well-rounded development for each student.

Learn more about the Next Steps Ambassadore Program at: http://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/nextsteps/peermentors/

Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame: Information and Inductees

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