Thanks to funding from The Milbank Foundation, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be expanding Campus Career Connect (C3), PYD’s new online, professional e-mentoring program to support an additional 50 college students with a disability across the state of Massachusetts. This new grant will expand the program, which was originally available exclusively for community college students thanks to a generous three-year grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.
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.
The C3 network was designed specifically to support young adults with disabilities in improving their employment outcomes, including securing internships and jobs in their field of choice. Through the network, college students with disabilities 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 opportunities. Professional mentors have been recruited from a variety of industries thanks to a partnership with the Massachusetts Business Leadership Network, a program of UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits.
According to Regina Snowden, Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, “We are so grateful that Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and The Milbank Foundation have invested in the power of mentoring for college students with disabilities. At PYD, we have experienced the transformative value of mentoring for over 32 years, and we know this opportunity will have meaningful impact for college students with disabilities who are ready to take the next step in their career.”
Campus Career Connect is now open to any college student with a disability from Massachusetts or attending school in Massachusetts. Sign up now at c3.pyd.org!
This blog post was written collaboratively by Eli Wolff (Partners for Youth with Disabilities) and Mary Hums (University of Louisville). Eli and Mary have both worked in the area of mentoring for social change and have been part of the organizing team for International Mentoring Day. This post was originally published at MENTOR.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
How do we find ways to support, enhance and mentor advocacy movements built on a foundation of allyship and unity for underserved, minority and disenfranchised groups? How can mentors and mentees promote allyship in their relationships and in their broader work of commitment to social justice?
All too often minority groups feel as if they are fighting on their own, in isolation. All underserved populations and movements need to have a framework for reaching out to others for solidarity, unity, and allyship and mentors can play a powerful role in establishing that framework. In an effort to build more inclusive communities, however, mentors need to be informed and empowered to facilitate a methodology of allyship. In order to do this, it helps to have a baseline definition of allyship.
Allyship is about bridging the gap between those with privilege and those without it. A person doesn’t need to know everything about the group they’re supporting in order to be an ally. They just need to commit to standing up for others even if it costs them a few moments of social discomfort. (Teaching Social Justice, 2016)
The principle of “Nothing About Us Without Us” should take center stage to reinforce how an underserved population must be central in representing itself in all settings. The disenfranchised group should be at the forefront of defining, articulating and advocating for their rights and needs. When advocacy is led and directed by members of the underserved population, then inclusive communities of allyship can evolve. This strategy allows majority, privileged populations to work seamlessly with advocacy initiatives and projects that advance the rights and dignity of all. The fact is, allies must speak up in matters pertaining to social justice, whether that is related to disability, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
In any advocacy movement for minority and underserved communities, there is a need to grow and learn from history, and mentors play a key role in this process. Learning does not only refer to knowledge about social justice but also includes learning how to advocate across social justice areas. Leaders and mentors from different movements need to be open to supporting each other and must also model that behavior to their mentees. We can all hopefully learn about allyship through positive mentoring relationships, and this transfer of knowledge and empowerment can help to inform and create a broader inclusive social justice movement rather than one that reinforces separation and silos.
Mentors and mentees have the opportunity to join forces and advocate together, to directly represent underserved populations or to act as allies in solidarity. Mentors and mentees must hold each other accountable to work with others, rather than acting and speaking for others. This strategy aims to build movements based on unity and solidarity rather than isolation and separation. When we all work together, we lift each other up.
When reflecting on how mentors can play a role in promoting social justice, ask yourself the following questions: How do you advocate for and with underserved populations? How do you mobilize allyship for social justice? How do you infuse allyship into your mentoring strategies and approaches?
Stuart 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.
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.