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RespectAbility Hires National Leadership Director, Advances Leadership Opportunities

head shot of Brian Rowe

Brian Rowe

New Hire Brian Rowe Offers Nine Years Experience in Disability Field Promoting Skills

Rockville, Md. – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower Americans with disabilities to achieve the American Dream, is proud to introduce our new National Leadership Director, Brian Rowe.

“RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program offers hands-on work experiences and coaching for Fellows over a period of at least nine weeks in a dynamic and supportive environment,” President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “We are excited to announce Brian Rowe’s hiring, which will enable our Fellows to gain leadership skills and develop a portfolio of contacts while advancing our agenda.”

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Rowe worked in the disability field for nine years. He was a Program Manager for a company providing residential support for people with disabilities in Virginia. Rowe worked to accomplish the mission of helping persons with disabilities find happiness in their own homes, in their personal relationships and as contributing members of their communities. 
“I worked with people who were capable of so much more than was being asked of them, people who really wanted

Fellows on a tour at NPR, posing together behind a table, half of the group seated and the other half standing behind

Fellows on a tour at NPR

Fellows posing with Eddie Ellis and Janie Jeffers in front of a RespectAbility banner

Fellows with Eddie Ellis and Janie Jeffers discussing criminal justice reform

Fellows posing with Maria Towne in front of a RespectAbility banner

Fellows with Maria Towne of the White House

Fellows posing with Rodney Hood of JP Morgan Chase in front of a RespectAbility banner

Fellows with Rodney Hood of JP Morgan Chase

to contribute but who were being afforded few opportunities, if any,” Rowe said. “That is what most excites me about working with RespectAbility, that our mission is to fix those expectations.”

Rowe works directly with Fellows to provide them with professional work experiences and resources that will support their career goals and simultaneously advance RespectAbility’s mission. He is responsible for recruiting qualified Fellows, providing training related to their skills development (e.g., writing, research, computer, networking, social media, public speaking, resume writing), and working with Fellows to organize relevant presentations and special events. In addition, he serves as a mentor to aid in the Fellows’ completion of assigned tasks and assists graduates of the program with securing employment and/or entrance to graduate schools. Fellows have gone on to work for think tanks, advocacy organizations and the White House. Others have gone on to law school and masters programs for public policy.

“I was immediately struck by the caliber of the fellows RespectAbility has assembled,” Rowe said of his first impression of the fellowship program. “I look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence and advancing our Leadership Program to new heights.”

Prior to Rowe joining RespectAbility, a communications fellow, Laura Halvorson, stepped up as a volunteer Acting Leadership Director. Halvorson is a 31-year-old with muscular dystrophy and has a Masters Degree in Special Education from Texas Woman’s University. She assisted with the recruitment and hiring of the summer 2016 fellows. Halvorson previously lived in Texas where she was a special education department head and taught kindergarten-5th grade special education classes. In 2014 she was Ms. Wheelchair Texas 2014 where she educated and advocated to the media, businesses, political leaders and the general public on disability rights issues. Halvorson is passionate about working at RespectAbility because of her commitment to the disability rights movement, which led her to move to the DC metro area to help further the cause.

RespectAbility currently has eleven spring Fellows who are assigned to one of our teams: policy, communications, development or Jewish inclusion. Our Policy Fellows are Charles Butler, Grant Denny, Nathan Shearer and Max Spain and our Communications Fellows include Margaret Breihan, Laura Halvorson, Jay Kolodne and Medard Masangu. James Trout, having finished a fellowship in policy last summer is now working as a fellow in Communications as well. Dan Pinsker is our Development Fellow, and Samantha Fleischer is our Jewish Inclusion Fellow.

“Our fellowship program continues to thrive,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “To date, we have had more than 60 fellows, half of whom self identify as a person with a disability, half of whom do not but want to work in the disability field or support our agenda. With Brian Rowe now here to lead our efforts, we are looking forward to a robust class of summer fellows.”

Breihan, Butler, Fleischer, Kolodne, Pinsker, Shearer, Spain and Trout will be staying on at RespectAbility for the summer cohort. In addition, we are excited that several other individuals are planning to join us for the summer fellowship including Cara Leibowitz and Annie Tohill in Communications, Joseph Tawney and Timothy Young in Policy, and Nicole Rakusin in Jewish Inclusion.

RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program attracts college and graduate students as well as graduates with or without disabilities who wish to enter the disability advocacy field, public policy and media.

“As Leadership Fellows gain skills and confidence via working on projects that enable RespectAbility to achieve our mission, we will help them evolve into stronger and even more articulate self-advocates and leaders – qualities that they will take with them into the workplace,” Mizrahi said. “Working closely with our full-time staff, the Fellows are integral members of our team who also learn invaluable skills to help them in their lives.”

In addition to hands-on work experiences, all fellows participate in special presentations by guest speakers and intensive strategic communications workshops. While the fellowship is unpaid, fellows receive a transportation stipend, lunch, training and personal mentoring.

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RespectAbility Staff
RespectAbility Staff

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