National Mentoring Month passed back in January, but as this year has progressed, I seem to find myself reflecting on mentoring a lot. Over the past year, I’m extremely proud to have found myself in a mentoring role for not one, but two fantastic young disabled women.
Disability EmpowHER Network
While January was a month to celebrate mentoring, my role has persisted and only continues to grow more meaningful. Back in early spring of last year, I participated in a public radio show with Stephanie Woodward, executive director of Disability EmpowHer Network and Maddie Kasten, a fellow Q Roll Model. We discussed the importance of having disabled female mentors in life when Stephanie and Maddie casually mentioned EmpowHer Camp. Naturally, I texted Stephanie in a frenzy to get all the details on camp and to find out what it would take to join. After careful consideration (including Facetime calls to indeed prove I could start a fire), I was invited to camp. So, eight disabled women and I headed to the Adirondacks to lead a camp for nine teens with disabilities.
My Experience at EmpowHER Camp
At camp, we learned emergency preparedness skills, leadership, did A LOT of singing, and most importantly, discussed disability in a way I never had. This environment was carefully curated. This ensured that every woman with a disability who entered the space had the chance to explore their disability (the good, the bad and the ugly) in a safe and positive way. We learned independence and also interdependence, and every single one of us left camp a part of a fierce girl gang.
The following year, each camper selected a mentor from our staff and worked on an emergency preparedness project in their communities. This July, we’ll all meet again for a reunion in Washington DC. We’ll present our projects to legislatures and most importantly, reconnect with our friends from camp.
Forging Mentoring Relationships
I was fortunate enough to leave camp with two amazing girls who even in their teenage years, are moving mountains. Both of my girls, Mia and Riley, decided on their projects at camp and I’m continuously impressed as to how they move forward. Mia has become an ambassador for inclusion and established a criteria to audit a homeless shelter to ensure it can support people with disabilities in the event of an emergency.
On the opposite side of the country, Riley is forming a core advisory group in her community to connect emergency management with the disabled community. In my role, I’m proud to be a supporter and a champion for these young powerhouses. I’m astounded by everything they accomplish, how they carry themselves, and the friendships I found. I didn’t grow up knowing very many women with disabilities. Now, we’re all part of this network together. Both women will achieve incredible things and I’m simply proud I get to claim association with them. Our relationship is certainly not limited to only one official mentoring month.
About Jill Moore White: Jill is an inclusive play specialist, bringing accessible playgrounds to local communities. She volunteers with disability organizations, including the Disability EmpowHER Network. Jill enjoys music, sketching and playing video games. Click here to learn more about Jill.
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