Amy Patterson, a Boston University graduate student in genetic counseling, loves working at PYD through her LEND Fellowship because she can mentor, learn more about disability rights and advocacy, and help PYD behind the scenes with different projects.
Through Boston Children’s Hospital, a LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Disabilities) Fellow is a student who attends interdisciplinary training in preparation for working with children with disabilities. Additionally, the student is matched to work with a community based organization, such as PYD. The fellowship runs September – May. PYD has been working with a LEND fellow for the past seven years.
“I was really excited to hear about the LEND program and how I could do more disability-focused training in the scope of genetic counseling,” said Amy. “In genetic counseling, we’re often interfacing with individuals of varying disabilities, but it isn’t necessarily directly talked about in the lens of disability.”
Since Amy already volunteered as a PYD mentor to Tom (since 2017), she eagerly accepted her LEND pairing with PYD in fall 2020. As a LEND Fellow, Amy writes grants, creates a database of foundations to apply for grants, participates in event planning, and runs a Facebook page with resources and a support network for other mentors.
“I helped plan the Mentor Appreciation Night afterparty in the fall, which was super fun,” said Amy. “I was in charge of creating accessible and inclusive games over the virtual space, like a virtual quarantine Bingo, show and tell, and get-to-know-you games. That was really fulfilling.”
In addition to her LEND responsibilities, Amy continues to mentor Tom. “Being able to trust that every week we have someone to talk to for a set half-hour or hour of time is a really nice way to build a relationship,” said Amy.
While their relationship evolved through monthly meetups to cook together, that stopped once COVID-19 prevented in-person meetings. Amy misses seeing Tom in-person and preparing and eating delicious food together; however, their relationship continues to grow despite COVID-19.
“At first, we were calling each other about recipes we were making on our own,” said Amy. “Then, we started talking more about different issues. Lately, especially because of the LEND Fellowship, we really transitioned our relationship into conversations about disability advocacy. Even through COVID-19, this really pushed our relationship into a different level of friendship and mentorship, and we’re diving deeper.”
Amy’s conversations with Tom about disability advocacy brought up one of her favorite PYD memories – being a spokesperson with Tom at the National Disability Mentoring Coalition. “PYD was leveraging the knowledge that Tom and I had,” said Amy. “Both of us felt really valued. It was a cool opportunity to talk about our match and what we do throughout COVID-19 to continue mentorship. We helped educate other organizations and gave people ideas.”
Amy feels fortunate for her LEND Fellowship with PYD. “It gives me a deeper role in PYD to see the logistics and background that goes into an organization like that,” said Amy. She added that you don’t need to be a LEND Fellow to become involved with PYD and urges others to apply for PYD’s mentoring program.
This article was written by the BU PR Lab.