National Leadership Program, Spring 2021
Taylor Ragano was a Community Outreach & Impact Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for the Spring of 2021. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
Ragano is currently a graduate student at Virginia Tech, earning her Master of Public Administration Degree. Having several disabilities herself, she believes that it is her calling to help reform the disability community. Ragano would like to help formulate solutions and assist the disability community by expanding opportunities and access to an inclusive work and academic environment. She wants to bring awareness and substantially increase the number of participants in the social movement to advocate for change to positively promote the disability minority. She wants to help create policy and formulate legislation in Congress that will help improve and transform positive change for individuals with disabilities.
Ragano began advocating for the disability community while in high school. As Miss Northern Virginia, her platform consisted of becoming a role model for individuals with disabilities. She yearned to bring awareness and insight to the challenges facing individuals with disabilities. In addition, she spoke with children in special education classrooms to encourage them to have a positive outlook towards their future. While at James Madison University, she spoke out about learning disabilities through a town hall setting on Facebook Live. Through this platform, she indicated that there is a substantial disparity of private tutoring for students with disabilities compared to traditional students. Additionally, her advocacy landed Ragano the opportunity, through a campus-wide video, to discuss how the student body and the university administration needs to become more inclusive for students with disabilities.
Ragano has had two previous internships on Capitol Hill. This past summer, she interned for Congressman Tom Reed of New York 21st District, and this past fall she interned for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York 21st District. During her congressional internship with Rep. Reed, she presented the RISE ACT to the staff for their consideration. The bill would help students with disabilities in higher education streamline the process to have access to disabilities services and accommodations. The staff fully supported the bill and informed her that they intended to have Congressman Reed review the legislative enactment and potentially cosign it in the future.
An interesting tidbit about Taylor is that she lost 100 pounds seven and a half years ago, and her weight loss success story has been featured on Fox News, Daily Mail, and several international online news publications. She is in the process of earning a Board-Certified Bariatric Counseling Certification through the American Association of Bariatric Counselors.
After graduate school, Ragano hopes to attend law school and work in the federal government to formulate policy initiatives as a lobbyist for the disability community. Her ultimate goal is to utilize her disability platform as a stepping stone to becoming an elected official.
Join Our Team
RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.