National Leadership Program, Fall 2022
Gabriella Helkowski is a Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2022. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
Helkowski recently graduated with her Bachelor of the Arts degree from Mercyhurst University. She has learning disabilities which have been challenging for her. Being a college graduate is an accomplishment that many thought was not achievable for her. The stigma that came with her disabilities was at times limiting for her as others did not believe in her. As a result, Helkowski is committed to fighting stigmas associated with all disabilities. She enjoys helping others with disabilities as she has the firsthand knowledge of how important it is to have someone in your corner. When not working, she likes to spend time with her friends and family, photography, cooking and traveling.
While Helkowski was in high school, she worked in a summer life skills program for students with disabilities. This is when she became passionate about working with people with disabilities. She also partnered with students with disabilities who were never able to participate in physical education classes before. She was involved with Best Buddies, which brought awareness that everyone mattered and were part of the school. At Mercyhurst University, Gabriella volunteered for the Beyond on the Gates Project at the Boys and Girls Club of Erie, Pennsylvania, working with younger students who loved having someone spend time with them in various ways. She realized how important it was to make everyone feel valued. Through various classes at Mercyhurst and her own personal struggles, she felt that people with disabilities needed a voice that would fight for them have the same opportunities as others.
At RespectAbility, Helkowski is looking forward to developing strong communication skills that will help her do amazing things in the Faith Inclusion and Belonging Department. She plans to use her skills to develop a voice to help others. After the Apprenticeship, she would like to work in a field related to children. She hopes to ensure that children with disabilities have the services and help they need and deserve. She’s had amazing people be that voice for her, and is excited that the Apprenticeship will help her learn how to be that voice for others.
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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.