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Shira Leeder, Leadership Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

Shira Leeder headshot

Shira Leeder

Shira Leeder (she/her) is a Leadership Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2022. RespectAbility is a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Leeder was born and resides in Palo Alto, California near Stanford University. Leeder attended the University of California, Berkeley for her undergraduate degree, where she majored in American Studies with an emphasis in Disability Studies with Honors. Leeder also received her Nonprofit Management certificate from Cal State East Bay in Hayward, California. She decided to go back to college in 2020, after difficulty finding any full time employment in the nonprofit and disability fields. Leeder is currently working toward her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management at San Francisco State University. Afterwards, she aims to create her own nonprofit focusing on alterative cooperative housing environment / services for people with disabilities, and hopes to acquire full time employment in the government or nonprofit sector.

Leeder has had Cerebral Palsy since birth. She uses hearing aids to hear better and an electric wheelchair for everyday use. Leeder first earned recognition for her work in September 2012, when she won the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant, a contest awarding the most accomplished and articulate spokesperson for Americans with disabilities. Winning Ms. Wheelchair California 2012, Leeder traveled around the state of California to communicate the needs and accomplishments of the disabled community to the general public, business communities and legislature.

Her journey for disability advocacy began in 1999, when she was selected as the youth participant for the Youth with Disabilities Conference in Washington, D.C. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Leeder started working with the Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden, a community project that aims to make the garden a unique ecologically sustainable public space, in 2010. Leeder was responsible for making the garden a place where people with disabilities can meet their neighbors and participate in community events.

Additionally, Leeder has devoted her time to various disability issues, like volunteering at the Center for Independent Living, a Berkeley services and advocacy organization run by and for people with disabilities. Leeder volunteered her time participating and serving at several local and state level nonprofits when she lived in Berkeley for 20 years, including the City of Berkeley’s Commission on Disability, where she has served for the past eight years. She has researched and shaped a variety of policies for the Berkeley’s city council in the area of universal design. Leeder also advocated for the city of Berkeley to create and establish an alliance with several emergency city services such as Easy Does It and BEACON to create an emergency plan for the disability community.

Leeder hopes to gain professional skills, networking, and improve quality of life for those with disabilities at RespectAbility, and continuing after her apprenticeship ends. She hopes to write a memoir about her life growing up as a Jewish woman with Cerebral Palsy, and produce a documentary for the Sundance Film Festival and other award shows.

In her free time, Leeder enjoys writing poems, traveling to new places around the United States and abroad, drawing and painting, eating a variety of foods and learning about the various cultures and history around the world. She loves to be outdoors in nature and the beach, enjoying the beautiful sunsets with her golden receiver dogs.

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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.

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Meet the Author

Shira Leeder

Shira Leeder (she/her) is a Leadership Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2022. She is currently working toward her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management at San Francisco State University. She won the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant in 2012.

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