Each year since 2015, the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) has inducted outstanding individuals and organizations into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame to achieve two goals:
- Honor 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 held our seventh annual Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2021 of the Hall of Fame, inducting 19 individuals and 5 organizations.
Although we emphasize the importance of mentoring all year long, we look forward to our annual Induction Ceremony to acknowledge the success and impact of mentoring throughout the year. The class of 2021 was selected based on their commitment to mentoring and the impact of their mentoring efforts in positively impacting people with disabilities in the areas of self-advocacy and/or community advocacy.
Inducting the Class of 2021 of the NDMC Hall of Fame
Held on Wednesday, March 30th, 2022, our Induction Ceremony went off without a hitch! With more than 300 registered guests, the event kicked off with an introduction from Piper Slowinski, PYD’s National Inclusion Manager & IT Quality Administrator.
From there, Maddy Ullman, Writer & Storyteller, opened up the night to give a welcome speech. Maddy told the story of the namesake of the NDMC Hall of Fame, Susan M. Daniels, who devoted her life to improving the lives of people with disabilities. In addition to sharing the Hall of Fame’s history, Maddy honored Susan by sharing one of her favorite poems, To be of use by Marge Piercy.
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
After reading this beautiful and fitting poem, Maddy emphasized what mentoring means to her and why it’s been so beneficial to have a mentor like Xian Horn, the Induction Ceremony’s Emcee, in her life:
“There are many things I can say about myself…many identifiers I can bring to the table, some of which are woman, Asian, Chinese, adoptee, woman with Cerebral Palsy. For me, a lot of that has been isolating, so to see Xian, an Asian woman with Cerebral Palsy, just rocking with life has really opened me up to possibilities because sometimes you don’t think you can do it because that’s what society says…I had never met someone so much like me. That just says, ‘Okay, she did it! What’s stopping me from doing it?’ I think that’s one of the great things about mentoring and why everyone needs a mentor, because they need to see themselves.”
Maddy’s words underline the importance for individuals with disabilities to have mentors in their lives who can show them that they can achieve whatever goals they set. As Maddy explains, “If I had seen Xian as a child, my views would have changed. I would not have struggled as much as I did.”
The floor then opened up to Xian, who shared that mentoring relationships are essential to everything we do, and gave an overview of what to expect for the night.
She also shared a video created by Regina Snowden, Edmund Asiedu, Kristin Humphrey, Tina Weber, Anna EldenBrady, and Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon, Jr., which explained the mission and the work of NDMC. As T.J. stated, “Inclusion benefits everybody.”
Before introducing the Keynote Speaker, Claudia Gordon, Xian discussed the importance of supporting one another and mentoring: “How do we support one another? How do we advocate for our community? It all starts with the gift of our time, or in our case, the gift of mentorship as well.”
This set the tone for Claudia’s remarkable speech that she gave about how mentoring benefits us all and has especially helped Claudia to excel in her life and her career, becoming the first Deaf black female attorney in the United States. As Claudia stated, “I am where I am today in my life because of my mentors…You are inspiring others and giving them reasons to believe in themselves.”
Claudia’s powerful speech left the audience feeling inspired by Claudia’s achievements and encouraged to take action on their own.
After Claudia’s keynote, Regina introduced the first inductee, Rayna Aylward, co-founder of and advisor to the NDMC. Rayna shared a story between her and Susan Daniels, her mentor, when they had first met. Susan had asked Rayna the question, “Why should I care about you?” Through this conversation, Rayna realized that the reason Susan asked her the question is because everyone is worth caring about, and if only we each knew the special characteristics we carry, the world would be a better place. This has now become one of the first questions she asks every mentor, and it’s an important reminder that she’ll always remember.
From there, Rayna introduced the next inductee, Kevin Webb, before the microphone was passed to Piper to introduce and induct Disability EmpowHER Network, Stephanie Woodward, Curran Brown, Trisha Brockway, Elaine Kubik, and Nandita Gupta.
After Piper, Kristin introduced the next round of inductees: Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), BJ Stasio, Dr. Tilak Ratnanather, Darryl Sanchez, Eli A. Wolff, and the California Transition Alliance.
Before the next round of inductions, Keith Jones, founder of SoulTouchin’ Experiences, shared his mentor-mentee success story from back in the 1980s, when he was 14 years old. Keith was one of PYD’s first mentees with his mentor, Kenneth Lockhart. As Keith said in his video, “It’s not what we give to our mentees, it’s what we receive from our mentees.”
Keith’s video with Krip-Hop Nation, “Rising Phoenix,” also played for entertainment. Rising Phoenix won two sports Emmy Awards, including outstanding music direction with Keith Jones as lyricist.
Following Keith was an exciting announcement from Erika Talkofsky and Mike Huddelston, GEICO’s ABLE Employee Resource Group Co-Chairs, about their partnership with PYD to lead the Dinah F.B. Cohen Fellowship Program as well as offer the PYD/GEICO Changemaker Scholarship to award $12,000 in scholarships to undergraduate students that are either a Junior or Senior attending an accredited college or university of their choice. We’re grateful to partner with GEICO to help further the education of individuals with disabilities.
The next round of inductees was introduced by Genelle Thomas, PYD’s Director of National Initiatives and co-founder of the NDMC: I’m Determined, Will Fried, Dr. Toni Saia, Gayatri Kini, and Kelan Koning.
From there, we shifted gears for a bit to honor the life of Mary Brougher, a monumental individual in the disability community who passed away earlier this year. This tribute was led by Joyce Bender and Tony Coelho.
Lastly, Mehdi Raoufi, PYD’s Career Readiness Outreach Coordinator, introduced the remaining inductees: Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD), Marie Dagenais-Lewis, Nic Novicki, Emily Reed, and Dr. Lisa Johnson.
Thank you to all who attended the NDMC Hall of Fame and have supported the NDMC and its mission! We wouldn’t be where we are without our supporters, donors, mentors, and mentees. Please consider making a donation in support of the event and in honor of this year’s inductees.