Partners for Youth with Disabilities Receives James G. Connolly Tribute Fund Grant

BOSTON – Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) was presented with a grant from the James G. Connolly Tribute Fund at the 12th annual Champions of Mentoring breakfast. The breakfast was hosted by Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) earlier this summer to honor individuals and organizations that have shown an outstanding commitment to mentoring and youth development.

This year Connolly grants were awarded to two organizations, PYD and Enroot, to enhance their mentoring work with immigrant and refugee youth. They were selected as the result of a competitive RFP process.

“At PYD, we’ve long known that many youth with disabilities also have experiences of trauma, and that many come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. When these identities collide, it can compound the issues that many youth with disabilities already face–especially their feelings of self-esteem and self-efficacy–and impact the realization of their potential. To have supports like the Connolly Fund that recognize how these dual and multi-faceted aspects of self interact is truly tremendous. Our gratitude is mighty,” said PYD Founder and Executive Director Regina Snowden, who accepted the award at the event.

The grant will be used to bolster existing staff skills, create two new training workshops, and train PYD’s mentors and partner organizations in an effort to better engage and serve immigrant and refugee youth.

Named in honor of MMP’s late board chair, Jim Connolly, the Fund honors his memory and dedication to mentoring by supporting projects that are aligned with MMP’s mission of providing all Massachusetts youth with positive adult relationships. Since 2010, the fund has awarded more than $200,000 in grants to mentoring programs.

Jim Connolly’s belief that all youth should have the opportunity to reach their full potential directly aligns with PYD’s mission and this project. We believe that all youth have strengths and abilities, and that it’s important to change people’s assumptions, expectations, and attitudes in order to create a world where youth with disabilities have full equity of opportunity.

Also at the Champions of Mentoring breakfast, MMP presented the 2017 Champions of Mentoring awards to Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester) and Tom Caron of NESN, and two Dorchester youth, Shelby Destin and Taya Hopkins, each received $20,000 educational scholarships for persevering through adversity with the guidance of a caring adult.

About Mass Mentoring Partnership
Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) is fueling the movement to expand empowering youth-adult relationships to meet the needs of communities across Massachusetts. MMP serves hundreds of mentoring programs and youth development organizations statewide supporting thousands of youth in mentoring relationships.

About Partners for Youth with Disabilities
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. To learn more, visit

What does PYD mean to you? #IamPYD

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.

Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior

An adult speaking to a teenage boy in a calming wayBehaviors are the result of the interactions of two things: the characteristics we possess as people and the characteristics of the situation we face. The theory behind the iceberg model of childhood behavior is that there are many things that influence the way that children act and react: skills, knowledge, experience, social role or values, self-image, traits, and motives. Some (the most conscious) of these characteristics can be seen outright – “above the water,” if you will. The more subconscious or unconscious characteristics are the ones working behind the scenes — “underwater.” It is a mixture of all of these characteristics that will shape a child’s behavior—meaning that the cause of the behavior won’t always be apparent.

The tip of the iceberg—the conscious characteristics that children have in their toolbox—are skills, knowledge, and experiences. Skills represent what children can do innately or things they have learned to do over time. Knowledge is what they know or have come to understand as they’ve grown. This knowledge is shaped by their experiences, which help build both the knowledge and skills available to them in their personal toolboxes.

Under the water, however, are the unseen forces that can shape their behaviors. This portion consists of four large components: their social role and values, self-image, traits, and motives. Continue reading “Understanding the Iceberg Model of Childhood Behavior”

PYD Expands Mentoring Opportunities to Community College Students with Disabilities on a National Scale

Cartoon mentor and mentee connected via wifiBOSTON, MA – Over the next three years, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be launching a new online, professional mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities across five states.

According to the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy, people with disabilities continue to have an unemployment rate over two times that of people without disabilities. While higher education often improves employment opportunities, college graduates continue to face barriers when seeking employment, which can lead to unemployment or underemployment. Thanks to a three-year grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities is planning to address this issue by expanding professional mentoring opportunities to community college students with disabilities in five states.

PYD will offer e-mentoring to 330 young adults with the goal of improved employment outcomes through partnerships with Business Leadership Networks in Massachusetts (Work Without Limits), Connecticut (Connecticut Business Leadership Network), Maine (Maine Business Leadership Network in partnership with the Maine Chamber of Commerce), Wyoming (Unita County Business Leadership Network), and Kansas (Greater Kansas City Leadership Network), as well as community colleges in these areas.

Community College students will access professional and peer mentors to increase their networks, receive advice, and gather support about achieving goals. They will also participate in topical webinars related to employment readiness, and engage in live networking and interview fairs hosted by the Business Leadership Networks.

According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “For 31 years, PYD has witnessed the transformative power of mentoring in the lives of youth and young adults with disabilities in their efforts to gain employment and achieve independence. We are thrilled to be expanding our program model beyond Massachusetts through e-Mentoring. We know that this effort between many collaborating partners will result in increased employment opportunities for the participating young adults.”


About Partners for Youth with Disabilities
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. To learn more, visit

About Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The foundation has contributed more than $15 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives. To learn more, visit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s website at

Partners for Youth with Disabilities Awarded $1.1M Grant by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

BOSTON, MA — On September 15th, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) was awarded a 3-year, $1.1 million grant by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). This grant will go to providing mentors to 290 youth with disabilities over the next three years, and to expanding the availability of high-quality mentoring for youth with disabilities across the nation.

Youth with disabilities face societal discrimination and environmental factors placing them at extremely high risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system. This is especially true for youth with emotional disturbances and learning disabilities, who are at an increased risk of gang involvement, placement in secure care, and placement in correctional facilities.

From Regina Snowden, PYD’s Executive Director: “We are grateful to the OJJDP for recognizing that disability is an important part of considering the whole child. We believe and have long advocated for the fact that in order to adequately support at risk youth, disability has to be part of the conversation. We could not be more grateful to have this tremendous opportunity to bring our experience and knowledge to a national level in this important social issue.”

As a result of this grant, PYD’s one-to-one mentoring program, called Mentor Match, will be expanding to provide mentors to more youth with emotional and learning disabilities. Additionally, PYD will be working with three partner organizations to help them implement PYD’s best practices for mentoring youth with disabilities, providing mentors to more youth with disabilities across the nation. These organizations are: MentorABILITY (Wyoming), The Viscardi Center (New York), and The Orangewood Foundation (California).

Susan Nicastro, PYD’s Deputy Director, will serve as Project Director for this award. She stated that: “We know that mentoring is a key strategy to ensure that youth make a positive transition to adulthood. At risk youth with disabilities are less likely to have mentors in their lives and more likely to benefit from mentoring. The resources provided by this generous award will help close this gap and bring mentoring to youth who need it the most.”

From Genelle Thomas, PYD’s National Center Director: “PYD’s National Center for Mentoring Youth with Disabilities is committed to guiding and supporting organizations as they seek to develop programs to improve outcomes for youth with disabilities. This award will enable PYD to leverage its 31 years of experience developing mentoring programs for youth with disabilities, and ensure that many more youth benefit from the power of mentoring. Through this award, we will support organizations as they implement a proven strategy to support at risk and high-risk youth with disabilities.”

This grant further reinforces PYD’s position as a national leader for mentoring of youth with disabilities.

About Partners for Youth with Disabilities: Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) empowers youth with disabilities to reach their full potential by providing transformative mentoring programs, youth development opportunities, and inclusion expertise. We motivate youth to reach their personal, educational, and career goals, and guide organizations in becoming more inclusive. PYD currently runs four direct-service programs that serve youth with disabilities in the Greater Boston area, and a training center that helps organizations across the country and world become more inclusive of youth with disabilities. You can learn more about PYD at, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Viscardi Center: The Viscardi Center is a network of non-profit organizations that provide services that educate, employ and empower children and adults with disabilities across the lifespan, based in Albertson, NY. Since 1952, Abilities, Inc. at The Viscardi Center has been preparing adolescents and adults with all types of disabilities and levels of experience for entry or re-entry into the workforce by assisting them in securing pre-employment services and employment. Learn more at

About MentorAbility: MentorAbility is a youth initiative of the Uinta County Business Leadership Network in Evanston, Wyoming, assists rural youth with disabilities to become employed. The program engages the active participation of local employers in providing career exploration and internship opportunities designed to enable youth to gain career guidance, insight and experiences they need to obtain jobs and develop meaningful, rewarding careers. Learn more at

About the Orangewood Foundation: The Orangewood Foundation serves current and former foster youth in California’s Orange County and is a private, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established in 1981 to raise money to build a replacement emergency shelter for Orange County’s abused, neglected, and abandoned children. The mission of OCF is to provide life-changing prevention and intervention programs for abused and neglected children, young adults, and at-risk families through one-on-one support and community partnerships to end the cycle of child abuse. Learn more at

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