Denny’s Hungry for Education™ Virtual Winners’ Celebration announced PYD’s Lillian Ellmore as the national winner of the Hungry for Education scholarship contest. Lillian was selected by Denny’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Counsel made up of employees from business resource groups. She was also awarded a $1,000 scholarship through PYD for her education at High Point University where she is majoring in Pre-Law.
Lillian plans to attend law school and dreams of working on Capitol Hill as a disability lawyer where she can have an even greater impact. “Winning would mean that I am closer to my goals of promoting greater inclusion for all. And since medical science has us all projected to live longer, the work we do now to empower those with disabilities will also help our future selves live a full life,” Lillian wrote in her application.
Lillian has participated in PYD programming for several years, including one-to-one mentoring and the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) where Lillian has been both a delegate and a Peer Leader.
“PYD has helped me significantly,” Lillian wrote. “In middle school, I struggled to find role models people who could show me how “this” (my disability) was supposed to be done. But there weren’t any that I could find to relate to. I connected with PYD and have met the most amazing role models and mentors who have provided tons of guidance, laughter and support.” Lillian continues to be close with her last mentor and values her participation in YLF so she could give back to others and the ability to give back to others and promote the power of mentorship.
Promoting inclusion for those living with disabilities has been a passion for Lillian since a young age. At 10 years old, she began speaking across the country to fundraise for organizations supporting people living with disabilities including the Boston Red Sox, Girls Scouts, and Canine Companions for Independence. She also spoke at Procter & Gamble on empowering employees with disabilities, leaving a positive impression on the audience.
Excerpts from Lillian’s essay on how Denny’s can bring the community together:
Never before has something as simple as sharing a pancake breakfast become so critical to the health and emotional stability of a nation. There is a tremendous opportunity for Denny’s to become a comforting space for communities to gather. Denny’s has provided that opportunity for people of diverse abilities, ethnicities, and beliefs, to come together as a community, for over 60 years and can build on its legacy and bring communities together through three initiatives:
- Weekly meal sharing of community seniors and students from a local school. Seniors today are facing increased isolation and the opportunity for them to spend time with youthful energy would be very beneficial. For the teens, there is so much to be gained from learning from the wisdom of those with much greater life experience.
- A skills training program for disabled young adults consisting of a week-long program of teaching basic cooking, cleaning, serving and cashier skills, and Denny’s offering employment to the students that excel.
- Have every Denny’s hang a TV monitor and invite folks to take pictures of themselves with their friends and family, eating at Denny’s and celebrating life’s moments; or a memory board/corner, for those who do not want photos, to instead hang up a newspaper article about the local team or display a winning pumpkin.
As the national winner, Lillian will join Denny’s as a Hungry for Education Brand Ambassador on various events and campaigns, including the Hungry for Education Tour scheduled for September through November 2022. Lillian will appear in-person, live streamed, or pre-recorded. The tour includes five college campuses and enables Denny’s to connect with students for internship opportunities, hire graduates, and promote the scholarship opportunity.
In addition, Lillian will be featured on Denny’s Hungry for Education website, a print ad campaign, and possibly a television commercial. Denny’s will also work toward initiating some of Lillian’s ideas to bring communities together.
View the Denny’s Hungry for Education™ Virtual Winners’ Celebration on their Facebook page.