A moment of silence fell over the PYD office as a brilliant idea filled Nicole’s brain after listening to ‘In the Afternoon with Austin’ on Radio Perkins. Nicole strung up from her desk and turned to me with an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm as she spilled her idea, “Austin, do you think Kennedy would like to host PYD’s annual benefit fundraiser as the Master of Ceremonies?”
I replied, “It doesn’t hurt to ask. But, if we have any hope we have to write up the proposal opportunity email tonight!”
The email was in Kennedy’s inbox by the following morning, to which she replied almost immediately with a resounding, “YES!”
Following this new addition to Party for PYD, Nicole asked if I would be interested in joining the Party Planning Committee. I, of course, could not turn down such a valuable opportunity! I then began attending meetings twice a month until May 10th, 2018.
The planning committee meetings were a place for communication of ideas related to goals, details and logistics. Topics discussed include everything from sponsor and guest engagement, venue design, invitations, social media strategies, auction items, donors, catering, volunteers, youth performers, etc. Although being apart of the planning committee was a tedious role to fill, it was one that came with a great deal of fulfillment. Every planning committee member brought a unique set of skills and resources that contributed to the growing passion. Overall, this was a very empowering and incredible opportunity that will live on in my memory for a great deal of time.
Party for PYD day, on May 10th, 2018, began with a light breakfast and delicious lunch. Following lunch, PYD staff members and volunteers carried all the supplies and auction material to their cars. Once the cars were filled, it was off to the races! We caravanned to PwC, who generously hosted the event, jamming out along the way with my friend, who graciously donated her entire day to PYD party prep! I was updating social media periodically throughout the day and happened to be doing so as we drove down multiple stories into the parking garage. I instantly became very dizzy and needed to pause to regroup. After I felt better, I made my way into PwC where Allyson Schiller from PwC greeted me. She gracefully escorted my friend and I to the futuristic elevators. As we made our way up the elevators we quickly discovered the speed at which they traveled, contributing to yet another headache and I nearly fainted…. But, you know what they say, the show must go on!
Allyson, thankfully, paused with us as we got off the elevator, as she got me ginger ale and pretzels to ease my dizziness. From then on out, Allyson hung out by my side a majority of the day, which allowed us to bond! She showed me around the venue, helped me update my social media throughout the set up process, and graciously offered treats! Our PYD team members made a much needed caffeine run to Starbucks!
Suspense was building as the event was drawing closer to the 6pm start, putting on last minute touches. The PYD family could barely contain their excitement! We all gathered towards the nearest restrooms to change out of our set-up clothes and freshen up for the distinguished guests and stellar night. We were so happy and humbled to welcome our guests into the breath-taking venue.
As 5:30 hit, we knew it was nearly show time! Elegantly dressed Party for PYD guests filled the atrium at PwC, admiring the Boston harbor view! We mingled, took photos, ate delicious food, told stories, while awaiting Kennedy’s arrival. Kennedy’s presence immediately brought about laughs, compliments, and stories that lasted until the speaking portion of the event.
At 6:50, PYD youth leaders and volunteers, with fairy wands, rapidly ushered all guests into place for the speaking portion of the night. Guest quickly filled their seats, since the party agenda was tighter than your grandmother’s jeans!
Neil Leonard, Vice President of the PYD Board of Directors and Chair of the Planning Committee gave the crowd a formal welcome followed by a passionate introduction to me, which nearly brought me to tears. I then had the opportunity to execute the script I had spent countless hours writing and perfecting for Kennedy and me. I was given the opportunity to introduce Kennedy to the crowd and share a segment of our journey together. This was really meaningful, for it allowed us to share our passionate and spontaneous connection with the audience, demonstrating how deeply I care for her as my mentor. Following the outstanding youth performance by our 2017 Rayleen Lescay awardee, Sophia Rose Kelley, Kennedy moved into the auction portion of the event. This brought upon many jokes and high-value bids, which helped PYD to exceed their fundraising efforts! Thanks to generous guests and Kennedy helming the live auction, we raised just short of $30,000 the night of Party for PYD. THE MOST SUCCESSFUL EVER!
It was a heartfelt privilege and honor to serve with the PYD family and alongside the facilitator, Nicole Malo (Director of Development and Community Engagement), in Party for PYD 2018. Nicole was an absolute joy to work alongside, as her passion radiates and warms the hearts of many. She worked countless hours that were truly seen in the execution of Party for PYD 2018. Anybody who encounters Nicole’s presence will immediate feel her passion, warmth, and utmost drive to do an incredible job each and everyday. She is a unique asset to the team, along with each and every member of the PYD staff, who worked many hours to put on such an amazing event! The PYD family works everyday to provide our community with safe, valuable, and fulfilling opportunities. They care about all details, no matter how small!
Thank you to each and every one of you for truly helping make it a memorable night!
All the best,
On Wednesday, March 21st, PYD youth and staff participated in Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 Boston, a Disability & Media Summit featuring expert panelists and professionals from Google, BBDO, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, PolicyWorks and Futuro Media Group as well as others in the entertainment and media industries to help mentor, motivate, EMPOWER, and network with aspiring professional college students, recent graduates, and career transitioning youth with disabilities.
According to the 2016 Ruderman Foundation White Paper, “95% of television characters with disabilities are portrayed by non-disabled actors. Under-representation of people with disabilities exists in ALL forms of traditional media, broadcast and entertainment, as well as emerging digital platforms in front of and behind the scenes. This stark under-representation contributes to a severe lack of professional media role models for youth with disabilities and perpetuates the myth of “invisibility” of people with disabilities.”
Because of the snow storm the panel and workshop portions of the summit were converted to a virtual webinar, and the employer and flash mentoring one-on-one sessions will be rescheduled at northeastern university later this year.
“The meeting was very good – learned a lot in there and it gave me some thoughts about my craft”-LCA2.0 Participant and actor Josh Jones.
LCA2.0 collaborative objectives include 1. Increase employment of people with disabilities in front of or behind the camera 2. Improve disability portrayals and having people with disabilities tell and share their story and 3. Enhance accessible entertainment.
At the same time, the core goal is to help participants get a head start in their passion and how to brand themselves and be part of a mentoring pipeline with professionals who share their experience.
Tari Hartman Squire, co-founder of LCA2.0, provided us a statement on the experience of bringing LCA2.0 to fruition and the roadblocks faced in the process:
“The only thing constant in life is change. This is particularly true in developing a career in media, no matter what genre or delivery platform – television, movies, advertising, theater, news or internet-based, including video games. Flexibility and creative solutions are key.
That is why we were excited to bring LCA2.0 Summit to Boston. LCA2.0 is a dynamic gathering where aspiring media professionals meet media employers and mentors with disabilities for resume review, speed interviews, flash mentoring, “How to Make it in the Media” panel discussion and two self-awareness and career-building workshops, Network and Mentoring presented by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition; and Self-Disclosure and Leveraging Your Disability to Sharpen Your Competitive Edge” presented by PolicyWorks.
Despite the snow, the show went on – virtually. After a warm welcome from Northeastern University’s Career Development and Disability Services Offices and the ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston, Google, BBDO, Futuro Media Group, and Deaf Film Camp along with our collaborators Northeastern University, ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston, UMass Boston/Institute for Community Inclusion, MA Cultural Council, No Limits Media, and WGBH
Thanks to Northeastern University for offering to host the LCA2.0 media employers and mentors down the road when the snow melts. LCA2.0 looks forward to returning to Boston,” according to Tari Hartman Squire, creator of Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0
As a Disability & Media Industry Call-to-Action Summit, LCA2.0 brings together diverse voices representing theatre, advertising, content creators, filmmakers, actors, and employment experts to guide participants in leveraging their skills to make their way their desire career path. The first panel called How to Make It in the Media Panel brought together professionals, from Jd Michaels from BBDO, Jeff Pardo from Google, and Julio Ricardo Varela from Futuro Media Group. The three discussed with moderator Anna Packman about how one gets started in the field. The moderator disclosed her disability and struggles and shared how employees warmly welcomed her. The panel goal is to share career entry experiences and strategies that helped the panel build on their personal and professional brand and content.
The first workshop was presented by barbara butz, from policyworks entitled self-disclosure and framing your disability to sharpen your competitive edge, telling how disability can be an asset during the screening and interviewing process for your desired job.
Derek shields, co-chair of the national disability mentoring coalition, provided the second workshop on networking and mentoring entitled: “nobody taught me how to network.” this session provided a networking model that helps develop a more positive mindset regarding networking and how to access mentors. After the event Derek said: “providing this content enhances the self-confidence of aspiring media professionals with disabilities. One of the Boston-area participants shared with me after the webinar that he better understands that a combination of skills, abilities and networking will help him to utilize connections to discover employment opportunities.” Derek also mentioned that the “practical experience and intentional activities” that lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 provides participants – both the aspiring professionals and the employers – helps all of us discover how to leverage mentoring as a disability inclusion strategy.
LCA2.0 was held in conjunction with the Boston ReelAbilities Film Festival (first premiere film rescheduled to this Sunday, March 25th at the Museum of Science)!
All participants and employers featured will be part of the LCA2.0 database for media professionals and aspiring career starters for LCA2.0 recruiting events, webinars, future internships, scholarships and apprenticeships, and the Cornell University/National Disability Mentoring Coalition Media Mentoring Opportunity Talent Pipeline. Participants can continue to network with each other and continue working of their content and brand!
This summit was co-founded in part by Tari Hartman Squire of EIN SOF Communications and Loreen Arbus of The Loreen Arbus foundation in collaboration with PYD, Deaf Film Camp; Easterseals Disability Film Challenge; Inclusion Films Workshop; Mass Cultural Council; National Center for Accessible Media — WGBH; National Disability Mentoring Coalition; No Limits Media; Northeastern University Career Development, Northeastern University Disability Resource Center; PolicyWorks; ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston; and UMASS Boston Institute for Community Inclusion
As a lead up to Mentor Appreciation Night Friday November 3rd, we will be highlighting our award recipients for the year who we call our #illumentors!
We are pleased to announced that the recipient and #illumentor for the Rayleen Lescay Spirit Award is Sophia Rose Kelley! Sophia has been an active member in the Access to Theatre family at PYD! This award honors those dedicated to the Making Healthy Connections and Access to Theatre programs.
Sophia wanted to share her words on receiving this honor:
My name is Sophia Kelley, three years ago Partners for Youth with Disabilities changed my life for the better. Having moved to Brookline I didn’t know many people. ATT is and always will be family to me.
We want to congratulate our Chris Dunne Leadership Award this year to Jessica Fiasconaro for Mentor Appreciation Night 2017! Jessica has been part of PYD for a long time, serving as a Peer Leader at this year’s Youth Leadership Forum as well as active participant in Making Healthy Connections and Access to Theatre! The Chris Dunne Leadership, in honor of the memory of Chris Dunne, recognizes Jessica’s accomplishments, strong leadership, and for being a role model to the PYD community.
Jessica wanted to share her words on receiving this honor:
Hi everyone! My name is Jessica Fiasconaro.
I first found out about PYD through the Massachusetts Commission of Rehabilitation. It was suggested to me by MaryEllen MacRae that I apply as a delegate in the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Forum (YLF). I enjoyed it so much I applied and served as a Peer Leader the following year! I also did an internship under the supervision of Deep Chinappa, PYD’s director of Outreach and Recruitment. During that time, I grew as an artist, a leader, and a student!
I am honored to have been chosen to receive this year’s Chris Dunne Leadership Award!
On March 12th, PYD began its #IAMPYD campaign by bringing our traveling canvass to Access To Theatre, PYD’s theater arts program for teens and young adults. Participants added their art to the canvas, expressing why they are involved and what they like most about PYD. The canvas is currently filled with a rocket ship, flowers, and other colorful drawings, including proud declarations of personal identities and why PYD is important to them.
Thanks to Mary Grace, Jackie, Juan, and Olivia of the Boston University PRLab, three peer leaders shared their experiences and how PYD has impacted their lives. The following are excerpts and photos from the interviews and the young artists’ process.
“I like being a peer leader for Access To Theatre and Making Healthy Connections because I enjoy expressing my individuality through theater and having fun! I love it because it is a space where I don’t get judged.” – Lizzie Gray
“My favorite thing about being a peer leader is being with my PYD family and those that I love the most. I also like helping others” – Josh Jones
“Partners for Youth with Disabilities has helped me be a better human being. It helps me be more independent as a man and it teaches me about social skills, and how to be ready for the world. In my personal life, it helps me be prepared for anything, because it unlocks that [treasure box] of opportunities and it helps me express who I am as an individual. It helps me learn more about myself and learn new things about different people. Everyone has a story and you never what they are going through unless you sit with them and learn their story. PYD has helped me with that. I’ve been involved for nine years now. I love PYD and thank them for doing that. If PYD didn’t exist I wouldn’t have learned to be as sharp, strong, independent, and intelligent, and I woudn’t have learned all these acting and theater skills. It is so cool to express being silly, but also being artistic and consistent at the same time. Some words that describe me are fearless, risk taker, ambitious, strive for greatest, loving, loyal, dedicated to family, dedicated to my peers, dedicated to being myself, honest, caring. Anything you need I’m always there for you. That’s what describes me.” – DJ Robinson
Join us at the Party for PYD on May 18th to hear DJ perform an original rap!
We’d like to thank Blick art for the kind donation of the canvas.