Maria Town 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 Maria Town into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

Maria Town is the Director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for the City of Houston. In this role, she advocates for the rights and needs of citizens with disabilities, serves as a liaison between the mayor, city council, city departments and other public and private entities on matters pertaining to people with disabilities in Houston, and establishes local and national partnerships to advance inclusion. Town is the former Senior Associate Director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement where she managed the White House’s engagement with the disability community and older Americans. She also managed the place-based portfolio and coordinated engagement across Federal agencies. Prior to this, Town was a Policy Advisor at the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. While at ODEP, Town led and coordinated numerous efforts to improve employment outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. She has particular expertise in areas of youth development and leadership and promoting college and career readiness for all youth.

Before moving to Washington, DC to work in public service, Town graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, GA with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. At Emory, Town was a Community and Diversity Fellow at the Emory University Office of the Provost where she aided in oversight, policy formulation, program development, and management to improve access, equity, and inclusion on Emory’s campus. While a student at Emory, she also served as the University-wide Student Government Association President. In addition to her disability policy work, Town is the creator of the popular “CP Shoes” blog where she writes about fashion, design, and disability. She is an alumna of both the New Leaders Council Fellowship program and the Mobility International USA Professional Exchange Program. She hails from Louisiana, where her family still resides.

Why mentoring matters to her:
“Life is so much harder without quality mentors. Mentoring relationships can make individuals feel valued, help them discover their potential, and can challenge individuals in ways that encourage growth. I have benefited personally and professionally from mentors and consider it my responsibility to make sure others can do the same.”

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

Nicole Turon Diaz 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 Nicole Turon-Diaz into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

Nicole Turon-Diaz, MA, Ed./SpEd., BCBA is the Founder/Director of Learning By Design, LLC, a behavioral, educational and employment consulting firm that provides a spectrum of services to individuals on the autism spectrum across the lifespan in Northern New Jersey and beyond. She is a local, national and international public speaker who has discussed topics such as best practices in transitioning to independence, the benefits of employing individuals with autism and embracing their talents. Honorary memberships include Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and National Scholars Honor Society. She holds national certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). In addition, she is a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the State of New York. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, Marketing and Organizational Management summa cum laude, and Master of Arts degree in Education and Special Education from Felician University. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis from Caldwell University and completed her clinical hours and practicum experience in Applied Behavior Analysis at Pennsylvania State University. She became a certified college coach at Bank Street College of Education to assist individuals with autism whose aspirations are to attend and successfully complete college.

Over the past 12 years, she has gained a variety of experience while assisting individuals with autism at transitional times in their lives, such as early intervention to public/private school, public/private school to vocational placement and/or college based on each client’s individual interests. She has also had the privilege of working alongside Joey Travolta and his crew for the past 8 summers at the Joey Travolta Short Film Camp held in New Jersey. She learned the ins and outs of professional film-making from start to finish alongside both individuals with autism and their neurotypical peers aged 9 to 23 years old. Quite a few campers obtained employment in the field arising out of their film camp experience. In addition, many campers went on to college to obtain degrees in their areas of interest such as scriptwriting. As a result of her work with Joey Travolta’s NJ film camp, Nicole served as a mentor at the White House Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Disability and Media Summit held at Gallaudet University and a facilitator at the CBS Corporate Diversity and CBS Entertainment Diversity/Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Disability Visibility Hollywood Panel Discussion, Flash Mentoring and Networking Reception. Both of these events provided individuals with disabilities a platform to meet, speak with and learn what it takes to make it in front of and behind the camera from key leaders in the entertainment industry.

Through her work with individuals transitioning into the “real” world, she saw a need and found a way to incorporate her degrees, certifications, knowledge and experience to offer supported employment and business management services for individuals with autism who sought employment or endeavored to start their own business. She began educating potential employers such as Sesame Workshop in New York City and post-secondary institutions to understand the gifts and talents that individuals on the autism spectrum often have and how to “work” with them. She has also assisted and represented writers, public speakers, as well as artists of various mediums including illustration, animation and acting in the capacity of business manager. Her extensive contacts in various fields of employment allow her to connect the autism community with potential employers, colleges, local retailers, libraries, hospitals and other organizations. For more information on Nicole and her work, see this newspaper article about her.

What does mentoring mean to you?
Mentoring is a back and forth, fluid, give and take relationship between two people who trust each other. We all take on the roles of both mentor and mentee in life and through these processes continuously learn about ourselves and others. Helping others reach their fullest potential utilizing their strengths and talents through mentoring is the greatest reward.

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

Taryn Williams 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 Taryn Williams into the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.

Taryn Williams is Supervisory Policy Advisor for the Youth Policy Team. The team works with workforce development and education systems partners to ensure that all youth including youth with disabilities have access to comprehensive transition services needed to prepare them for entering post-secondary education and the workplace.

In addition to serving as ODEP’s Chief of Staff, Taryn has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor, Youth Policy Team delivering expertise on disability policy issues including workforce development, education, social security and transition outcomes of youth with disabilities. She also served on detail assignments as the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House in 2014-15 and as a Policy Advisor on the United States Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

Prior to joining ODEP, Williams worked as the Research Coordinator for Leadership Programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) and as the Director of Programs at the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) headquartered in Chicago.

Mrs. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Education from Brown University and a master’s degree in Education with a concentration in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University.

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

Stuart Figueroa

Stuart with his dogStuart Figueroa, Employment Specialist, joined PYD in May 2017. In this role, Stuart serves as a bridge connecting YEP participants to meaningful employment opportunities in their communities. Empowering youth towards realizing their dreams and achieving self-efficacy is one of Stuart’s great passions, and his commitment to social justice and equity informs his work at PYD.

For the past 10 years, Stuart has worked in youth development through the fields of social work and higher education. His perspective and approach to this work has also been shaped by diverse and formative life experiences, perhaps most profoundly a solo transcontinental bike tour from Boston to San Francisco in 2011.

When he is not serving the PYD community, Stuart enjoys spending time with family, hiking with his dog, Lando, and firing up his grill.

Developing an inclusion statement

Group of six women working together on an activityDeveloping 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.

See the full list of disability inclusion trainings that we offer!

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