National Leadership Program, Summer 2018
Daniela Nieves is a Policy Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program. She joined RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with and without disabilities, to learn more about public policy and to work for a nonprofit organization that aims to help people with and without disabilities. Nieves plans to use her experience helping students with and without disabilities at RISE to contribute in education policy for youth with disabilities in America. She will also use her Spanish speaking and reading skills to participate in the creation of a Spanish toolkit for parents of students with disabilities. She first connected with people with disabilities as a high school advisor in Newark, New Jersey. She guided youth with intellectual disabilities to apply to college and to fight the stigmas associated with their disabilities. This process made her aware of the lack of accommodation and disability awareness. Most of the youth she advised had intersecting identities such as disability and race that made school more difficult.
Nieves is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science at Rutgers University-Newark. On campus, Nieves is involved with social justice in urban cities and is a member of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. She also is an Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) scholar. In HLLC, she takes social justice classes every semester, consisting of urban education, intersectionality and international cultures. Her experience through urban education as a Rutgers Inspires Student’s Early advisor led to her interest in children with disabilities.
Her professional and personal interests in the future include attending law school, traveling around the world and representing disenfranchised peoples such as those with disabilities, immigrants and people of color. One of her personal missions is to help people with disabilities in prison and juvenile detention. Her favorite nonprofit organization to advocate for is Mallory’s Army, a nonprofit in New Jersey focusing on the fight against bullying. She babysat 12-year-old Mallory for a year and tragically lost her from suicide due to bullying. She is passionate about bullying and suicide awareness among children and would like to learn about its correlation with people with disabilities.
Her mother and father motivate her to work for marginalized people in America. Her mother immigrated from Colombia to the U.S. at the age of 19, and her father is from Puerto Rico. Living in a predominately caucasian area in New Jersey, her family was marginalized regularly for being Latino. From the early complications of buying a house in the suburbs to her personally getting bullied in school for looking different and speaking two languages, Nieves understands intersectionality. As a minority, she can relate to others who have intersecting identities and plans to focus her career on public service for marginalized people.