In October my organization, Disability EmpowHer Network, was invited to Pittsburgh, PA, to present at a Volunteer Leadership Workshop hosted by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). MEAF was established by the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and is dedicated to helping youth with disabilities maximize their potential and participation in society. Disability EmpowHer Network is grateful to be a MEAF grant recipient and we were honored to attend their workshop to show how our programs empower girls with disabilities to become leaders.
I attended the workshop to present about EmpowHer Camp, our yearlong mentoring and leadership program for transition-age girls with disabilities. I invited one of our EmpowHer Camp graduates, Anja, to come with me to present about her experience in EmpowHer Camp. Anja was a member of our first class of EmpowHer Camp graduates and she is truly an incredible young leader.
Anja’s Project on Shootings and People with Disabilities
For her yearlong project with EmpowHer Camp, Anja wanted to advocate for legislative change to specifically address the fact that disabled students are seen as afterthoughts when preparing for shootings. She initially wanted to get a federal law passed requiring schools to take action to plan for the needs of students with disabilities during active shooter drills, but when looking into this issue, she found that while we all know this is a problem, no data exists to demonstrate exactly how bad the problem is. She realized that it would be very hard to convince Congress to pass a law without hard data demonstrating why it was necessary. This young leader decided that she would address this problem by getting the data herself.
Anja partnered with a national disability-led research company, P3 Technology, and was the lead researcher on a study that interviewed over 390 students with disabilities from across the country and more than 240 teachers and administrators about the plans schools have in place for students with disabilities in case of a school shooting. The results, as you can imagine, were horrifying. You can read more about Anja and whitepaper with the findings here.
Anja’s Impact on the World
Sharing the stage with Anja was a true privilege, but it was an even bigger privilege to watch her grow over the past year. At Disability EmpowHer Network, we know that when disabled girls lead, we all succeed and Anja is proof of that. I have no doubt that she will continue to make waves and change our world for the better. I am so thankful that I got to play a small part in her leadership journey.
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador advisor for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.
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