Join Us in Honoring the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 Inductees

Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductees

Dedicated to increasing the awareness, quality, and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities nationwide, PYD has inducted outstanding individuals and organizations into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame each year since 2015. Through this, we hope to achieve two goals:

  • Celebrate those who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring, and
  • Raise awareness about the importance of mentoring for individuals with disabilities.

This year, we’re specifically recognizing mentors and organizations that support mentees’ mental health and wellness through the development of coping skills, reducing stigma and isolation, providing mental health education, and brokering connections to community resources.

Additionally, it’s our honor to dedicate the event to disability rights activist, mentor, and friend Judy Heumann, who suddenly passed away earlier this month. As we mourn her loss, we’re creating a tribute page on our website to honor her life and legacy. Please use this form to share a tribute for Judy, which we will include on her tribute page. Judy was also an inaugural class of 2015 inductee.

Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 Inductees

As we prepare for our Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2022 of the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 from 6 pm – 8 pm EDT, we’re pleased to announce this year’s inductees.

Aimi Hamraie (they/them) is Associate Professor of Medicine, Health, & Society and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, and director of the Critical Design Lab. Hamraie is author of Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) and host of the Contra* podcast on disability and design. They are a member of the U.S. Access Board and a 2022 United States Artists Fellow. Hamraie’s interdisciplinary academic research focuses on accessibility and built environments. Trained as a feminist disability scholar, they contribute to the fields of critical disability studies, science and technology studies, critical design and urbanism, and the environmental humanities. Hamraie’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mellon Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Arts, and the National Humanities Alliance. They are quoted by the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, National Public Radio, the History Channel, the Huffington Post, Art News, and others.

Aurora Mental Health & Recovery/Aurora Youth Options has worked with Aurora middle- and high-school-aged youth along with their families to navigate, connect and provide positive individualized resources for success. The foundation of AYO supports the principles of Positive Youth Development, which is referring to intentionally supporting efforts of youth, and those around them, to provide opportunities to enhance their unique abilities and talents. AYO’s programming supports the individual with strength-based experiential learning opportunities.

Azza Altiraifi (she/they) is an organizer and movement strategist living in northern Virginia. In their full-time capacity, Azza works as a senior policy manager at a national movement support organization focused on economic justice. Azza is also an advisor for the Center for Democracy and Technology’s project on algorithmic fairness and disability rights. Previously, Azza has worked in senior research and policy advocacy roles at the Groundwork Collaborative and Center for American Progress’ disability policy project, delving into issues spanning the political economy of health, concentrated corporate power, and carceral ableism and sanism.

Bender Leadership Academy delivers competency building programs that enable students with disabilities to engage in educational, empowerment and work opportunities, celebrate successes, and set and achieve career journey goals. Established in 2018, Bender Leadership Academy is founded on a commitment to serving the disability community. Bender Leadership Academy focuses on the value and abilities each person can contribute to the workforce. Beginning as a volunteer mentoring program with the single purpose of helping youth transitioning into the workforce, the organization is now multi-faceted with programming that provides a comprehensive approach to addressing systemic barriers to employment.

Candace Coleman is a black disabled woman from the South Side of Chicago. She works closely with disabled people affected by the justice system to organize around racial justice and disability. This work includes anti-bullying, the school-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice, police brutality, and deinstitutionalization. She is dedicated to teaching disabled people of color to take pride in all aspects of their identities so they can become leaders themselves. Coleman has spoken around the country, and her pioneering work has been featured in news stories by the BBC, WBEZ, Newsy, and The Chicago Defender.

Capital Clubhouse Inc. is a community-based non-profit organization that serves individuals whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness by helping them achieve their goals of employment, education and connection to community.

Cindy Fritz grew up with a mom who had severe mental health issues so she was drawn to Great Life Mentoring (GLM). She is GLM’s Program Manager since 2005, trains and supports volunteers to be successful in their mentoring experiences, and has been a GLM mentor herself since 2007. She believes mentoring is vital for kids affected by mental health conditions. A caring connection with a healthy adult promotes confidence that they are worthy of love and belonging. Cindy holds a Masters in Theology and BS in Administrative Management. She loves spending time with her family, friends, and doxies.

Dan Campbell has touched thousands of people’s lives through both his 40 years of coaching and as a substance abuse and drug addiction counselor. Campbell, who is someone you don’t forget because of his compassion, has coached many high school, college and world-class athletes in running and skiing for decades and they all say one thing—he cares. Moninda Marube, a world class runner credits the track coach with providing stability in his life and shares, Dan, “picked me up, clothed me, gave me a place to call home, gave me a university education, and continuously wakes up each morning to check on how I’m doing. Dan has literally given me life, hope, and a sense of purpose both of which money can never buy.”

Dr. Pau Abustan, Ph.D. (they/siya) is an Assistant Professor of Cal State Los Angeles’ Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. Their research centers queer critical race feminist disability justice worldmaking in youth learning, animated storytelling, and coalitional activisms. They co-facilitated intersectional coalitional activisms in California (Tongva/Chumash lands) and co-founded youth support programs and a two spirit, transgender, and queer BIPOC led organization in Washington (Niimiipuu lands). Dr. Abustan is working on their first book reflecting upon their experiences as a queer, gender fluid, and decolonial Pilipinx Lucbanin Kapampangan cripnographer who witnessed youth and elementary school led queer critical race feminist disability justice worldmaking. They are an alum of UC Santa Barbara, CSU Northridge, and Washington State University who taught at Western Washington University, Highline College, University of Washington, and Washington State University. They are a Faculty Affiliate of the UC Davis Buloson Center for Critical Filipinx Studies and a co-organizer of the Critical Filipinx Studies Collective.

Dr. Saili S. Kulkarni (she/her) is an Associate Professor at San José State University. She earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in the field of special education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to her doctorate, she was a special education teacher focusing on the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms with same-aged peers in Oakland, California. Dr. Kulkarni works to prepare teachers to understand the importance of an anti-ableist and anti-racist approach to education through her work with disability and race. Dr. Kulkarni has intentionally mentored and supported teachers of color (especially special education teachers of color). She has also engaged and supported students who identify as first-generation, and those who may be multiply marginalized across race, disability, social class, language, and gender through career development, research, and campus belongingness.

Dr. Sara María Acevedo is a multiply-disabled scholar-activist and critical educator born and raised in Colombia. She is an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at Miami University where she leads the advancement of Disability Justice praxis through her teaching and mentoring, research, and community engagement. Sara served a three-year term with the Board of Directors of the Society for Disability Studies and led the creation of the organization’s 15 principles. She is currently conducting a research project on neurodivergent culture and autonomous forms of governance with a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Disability Rights Program.

Great Life Mentoring (GLM) is an evidence-based mental health intervention that utilizes community volunteers to significantly improve the mental health conditions of children living in poverty. It’s unlike any other mentoring program, and it’s proven to work. Since 2000, GLM has worked in partnership with mental health organizations, and its careful approach has positively impacted over a thousand lives. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, GLM is working to expand its reach to provide GLM’s standard of care, stability and emotional competence to children in communities everywhere.

Jen Deerinwater is a bisexual, Two-Spirit, multiply-disabled, citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and an award-winning journalist and organizer who covers the myriad of issues hir communities face with an intersectional lens. Jen is the founding executive director of Crushing Colonialism and a 2019 New Economies Reporting Project and 2020 Disability Futures fellow. Jen is a contributor at Truthout and hir work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including several anthologies, such as Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty First Century and the forthcoming Crip Authorship: Disability as Method (NYU Press, Summer 2023). Jen is the co-editor of the anthology Sacred and Subversive and is currently hard at work on hir own book.

Jennifer (Jenny) Border is a fierce advocate that every individual at any ability level has the right to education and the necessary resources to live a successful life. Currently she is the outreach coordinator for Kelly’s Kitchen, a non-profit organization promoting healthy nutrition in the whole community, with a focus on providing education on ways to access healthy food, explore employment possibilities in the food and beverage industry for people with disabilities, ensure food security, and learn healthy preparation techniques. The past two years, Jenny has worked with Disability EmpowHer Network in many different roles. Jenny also is a huge advocate for access to complex rehab technology and has helped scores of disabled people in getting the tech they need to live independently.

Jess L. Cowing (they/she) is a multiply disabled scholar and a visiting assistant professor in the Department of English at the College of Wooster. Their research is in the areas of 19th and 20th century literary studies, feminist disability studies, and settler colonialism. Jess served as the American Studies Association’s Critical Disability Studies Caucus Co-Chair from 2017-2021. Her work is published in The Journal of Feminist Scholarship and Disability Studies Quarterly. Jess grew up on Wabankai homelands and lives and works on Kaskaskia and Piscataway homelands.

Karen Nakamura, who identifies as multiply disabled and neuroqueer, is a cultural and medical anthropologist and the Haas Distinguished Chair in Disability Studies at the University of California Berkeley. Nakamura works with crip, queer, trans, and other minoritized social movements in Japan and the United States. While finishing a book on trans/eugenic/disability politics, Nakamura is currently looking at the impact of artificial intelligence / machine learning on intersectional disabled communities. She previously served as the co-president of the Society for Disability Studies; as past-Chair of the Oakland City Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities; and as a juror on SuperFest, the only international disability film festival run by capital-D Disabled people themselves. She survives in this world with the assistance of her service dog, Momo, an aging and quite deaf beagle.

Kelly Timmons lives with her husband, Paul, along St Helena Sound in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Food is an essential part of Lowcountry culture, as well as Kelly’s life experience. For ten years Kelly owned and operated a food manufacturing company where she brought over thirty different brandlines to hundreds of retail locations. Food sovereignty and security are deeply connected to Kelly’s Southern, Lowcountry heritage. Kelly identifies as a person with a disability and has long mentored, employed and advocated with women and girls with disabilities. She believes that the best way to honor the history of the disability rights movement is to empower its rising leaders.

Libbie Rifkin is Teaching Professor at Georgetown University and was the founding Director of the Program in Disability Studies from 2017-2020. Under her directorship, Disability Studies received the first annual Provost’s Innovation in Teaching award for an academic program. Rifkin was awarded the Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2021. Rifkin serves as the Special Advisor to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Disability. She mentors disabled students across campus and was instrumental in supporting their successful campaign to launch Georgetown’s Disability Cultural Initiative. She is on the faculty of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program, where she mentors early career professionals and members of disabled families.

Mary Fashik (she/her) is a Lebanese born, queer disability rights activist, author, public speaker, and workshop facilitator. In 2019, she founded Upgrade Accessibility, a movement designed to challenge today’s accessibility standards. Since its inception, the movement has grown and broadened its lens to include disability rights, intersectionality, disability justice, and equity. Through a variety of workshops, Mary helps companies understand how deeply rooted ableism is in their organizational structure and how to implement important changes.

Michael Agyin is a Deaf & Disability rights advocate. Son of Ghanian immigrants, he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts but raised in Compton, California. It wasn’t until college that Michael understood he was not alone in the way he experienced life and that there was a word to describe people like himself: Deaf. He quickly became empowered by learning American Sign Language (ASL) during undergrad, and he began to see the need for deaf advocacy on campus as well as the larger community. Michael became determined to break the barrier that exists between the Hearing and Deaf worlds. Outside of Michael’s ongoing work as a deaf and disability rights advocate, he is a runner, a Star Wars enthusiast, an uncle extraordinaire, and friend to many.

Michael Morris, JD founded National Disability Institute, which has changed the narrative and perspective on advancing economic stability and financial inclusion for youth and adults with disabilities. He continues to serve as Senior Advisor to the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, which has supported students from multiple disciplines to participate in all facets of inclusive research that recognizes the importance of the voice and perspective of individuals with disabilities. He received his undergraduate degree in political science with honors from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and his law degree from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first Kennedy Foundation Public Policy Fellow and worked in the office of Senator Lowell Weicker (CT). He helped lead the passage of the Achieving A Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014 and helped establish the ABLE National Resource Center. In 2020, Mr. Morris was awarded the Ketchum Prize by the FINRA Foundation for his extraordinary leadership in creating a better economic future for people with disabilities through advocacy, research and education.

Nancy Yang is a community advocate and organizer who has developed their skills, expertise, and research on the topics of ableism, sanism, and disability justice both in and out of the Hmong community. Nancy’s journey in advocacy began when they were a student activist fighting for a Critical Hmong Studies program at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire (UWEC). Not too long after, Nancy became disabled and rerouted their advocacy journey to include mad pride, psychiatric survivorship, and eventually, disability justice. As a Hmong queer disabled person, Nancy has always been an advocate for Hmong issues in some way, while also always bringing their intersectionality to the table. Nancy has been a domestic violence advocate for Hmong women, a youth program coordinator for Hmong youth, and an avid advocate for disability justice in Hmong disability and larger Hmong communities.

Nechama F. Sammet Moring, CPM, MA is a queer disabled anarchist, educator, writer, survivor, direct action activist, midwife, abortionist, organizer and riot mom / mother of revolutions. They have supported queer, trans, disabled, racialized and structurally marginalized youth and taught about policy, oppression and resistance at several colleges and universities as an often-fired adjunct professor. Nechama has extensive experience in direct action and reproductive justice activism and community care, and offers invaluable community education and infrastructure development around caring for one another. She believes that caring for oppressed bodies in community is inherently radical work, and mentors others in the practical aspects of this work.

No Barriers USA is a non-profit organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado, that is dedicated to providing transformative experiences that shift mindsets. Since opening its doors in 2003, No Barriers was created on the foundation of valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion. No Barriers is now celebrating its 20th anniversary and has impacted the lives of thousands of people by creating belonging, fostering self-discovery, and elevating individuals and their communities. Today, No Barriers serves Veterans with disabilities, Caregivers, people with disabilities, and youth, through providing transformative experiences in the form of camps, backcountry hikes, retreats, virtual workshops, programming, and annual events that welcome all abilities, individuals, and teams as they seek to break barriers.

Oluwatobi Maeyen Odugunwa (they/them) is an autistic and chronically ill mobility aid user. They began identifying as disabled in high school, and have grown from being a self advocate to advocating for their disabled peers. With a background in racial justice and LGBTQ rights, Oluwatobi is newly involved in the disability justice movement and now works with the Autistic People of Color Fund as well as calls for more acknowledgment of ableism and disabled experiences in their local social justice organizations. They aim to pursue a PhD in Disability and Gender Studies in the next few years.

Shain A.M. Neumeier is an autistic attorney with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, ectodermal dysplasia, hearing loss, epilepsy and a number of other disabilities. They have been involved in disability justice and youth liberation organizing and advocacy for fifteen years. Because of their experiences with involuntary medical and mental health treatment, they have focused their efforts on opposing coercive care in contexts such as psychiatric facilities, youth behavioral modification programs, and residential schools. They currently work as a trial attorney at the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Mental Health Litigation Division, where they represent people in fighting for their freedom from involuntary civil commitment and forced medication.

Silver Lining Mentoring empowers youth in foster care to thrive through committed mentoring relationships and the development of life skills. Youth in foster care are moved more than four times every three years, depriving them of the healthy, long-term relationships we all need to thrive. In the Boston area, our volunteer mentors help address this “relationship gap” by serving as reliable, lasting social connections for their mentees. The Silver Lining Institute then amplifies our impact nationwide by teaching other organizations the best practices we have learned over the last two decades.

Steven W. Allen is a veteran with a service-connected disability who holds a Master’s in Architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). In 2020, he became the President of the national non-profit organization PolicyWorks founded by Susan Daniels and her colleagues, SMD Hall of Famers: Jeanne Argoff and Barbara Butz. Steve lives in Carrabelle, Florida. He volunteers as President of the Crooked River Lighthouse and as an actor and director in a community theater group.

The NAN Project is a non-profit based in Lexington which seeks to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs in communities across Massachusetts. The NAN Project was established in 2015 to empower youth to be agents of change in how we talk about mental health. Created in memory of Nancy Cavanaugh, who took her own life in 2012, The NAN Project gives schools and communities the forum, tools and resources needed to tackle stigma and support youth. Since 2015, The NAN Project has built a strong team of passionate individuals that work together to promote mental health education. Currently employed are 10 full time staff and 15 Peer Mentors. In their short history, they’ve presented stories of overcoming mental health challenges to 37,166 students, staff, and community members.

Tristan Scremin was born in Rosario, Argentina and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has lived with schizophrenia for his entire adult life. His education includes a BA from CSUN, a JD from Peoples College of Law, and an MFA from Antioch University. He currently works as one of the Peer Trainers at Painted Brain, a peer run nonprofit. He also writes and makes art and lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles, CA

Congratulations to these individuals and groups around the country who are making a significant difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring!

Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 Guest Speakers

In addition to honoring these participants on March 28th, we’re excited to bring in the following guest speakers to host a captivating celebration.

Tatiana Thomas (PYD Mentee) and Lisa Matrundola (PYD Mentor, Class of 2020 Hall of Fame Inductee) are the co-emcees for the event, where they will be talking about the importance of mentoring and giving an overview of what to expect for the night.

Dior Vargas, a mental health activist with over ten years of experience in advocacy, will be the keynote speaker. She is also a Class of 2017 Hall of Fame Inductee. Dior works with universities and corporations to discuss self-care advocacy, wellness accessibility, and diversity within mental health. She is the creator of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project, a response to the invisibility of BIPOC in the media representation of mental illness. Dior has received numerous awards, including the White House Champion of Change for Disability Advocacy Across Generations under the Obama Administration. Dior delivers speaking engagements across the country, and her work and insight have been covered in media outlets such as The New York Times. Dior has a BA in the Study of Women and Gender from Smith College and an MPH from New York University.

Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 Sponsors

We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our sponsors. Special thanks to:

  • Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation
  • ForwardWorks Consulting
  • Genelle & Scott Thomas
  • Edmund Asiedu
  • Macy’s

We’re grateful for your continued support!

With attendees from across the country and a program filled with entertainment, the evening will be one to remember. Be sure to register for the event and join us on March 28th!