National Leadership Program, Fall 2019
Mireille (Ray) Pioppo
Mireille (Ray) Pioppo is a Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Fall 2019. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Originally from New York, Pioppo graduated in 2018 from Elon University in North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Human Service Studies. She chose to study Human Services because she knew it would equip her with the skills required to serve clients in a variety of public outreach organizations. Pioppo recently moved to Potomac, Maryland and is pursuing a career in nonprofit management. She hopes to work with marginalized populations in the Washington, D.C. area.
Determined in her goal to advance human rights, Pioppo is dedicated to many social justice causes. She aims to empower others to become leaders in their communities and believes that every individual has the potential to create meaningful change. Pioppo is especially passionate about promoting the rights of women and children, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Pioppo is a dedicated public servant. She has interned at domestic violence and human trafficking agencies, helping women and children escape violent situations. She hopes to effect change in these communities on a policy level. Pioppo also spent much of her time as an undergraduate student working with homeless populations, both in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. A primary focus of Pioppo’s was helping homeless individuals with disabilities find housing and employment, as well as to access public benefits. She is especially proud of her role in helping to establish a temporary shelter for homeless women and children.
Pioppo cites her experience working at the Kilmer Center as a primary influence informing her desire to work with the disability community and intern at RespectAbility. The Kilmer Center is a Fairfax County Public School for students with disabilities, ages 5-21. In recognizing the importance of physical activity for all, Pioppo chose to focus on normalizing the experience of the students by assisting with their physical mobility. Working with students in the gym was a rewarding opportunity for Pioppo. A large number of students were in wheelchairs. Her roles at Kilmer included facilitating the students’ gym activity time by pushing the students in wheelchairs, demonstrating stretches, and encouraging them to experience full body movement.
Pioppo’s personal experience with learning disabilities is an additional motivation to advocate for inclusion. Pioppo attended a high school for students with learning differences and attributes her skillset to an education that provided her with tools that helped her identify her strengths and classes that catered to her unique learning style. She hopes that this Fellowship opportunity will jumpstart an exploration of how opportunities such as the ones she was afforded can be shared with the larger population.
Pioppo’s decision to be a Jewish Inclusion Fellow at RespectAbility stems from her work in the Jewish community after her recent Birthright trip to Israel. Birthright is an educational organization that provides free trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. Pioppo enjoyed exploring Tel Aviv, hiking Masada and sleeping in a Bedouin Tent. The trip helped Pioppo strengthen her Jewish identity and values. Pioppo comes from a lineage of strong, educated Jewish women and is determined to help other Jewish women find their voice.
Beyond her interests in social justice, equity and inclusion, Pioppo is also a certified yoga instructor and hopes to teach yoga to people with disabilities. Travel is also one of her passions. Some of her favorite countries include Turkey, Greece, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Holland. She also has been fortunate to study abroad in Cannes, France and Copenhagen, Denmark. Pioppo appreciates learning about other cultures and customs. In her free time, Pioppo enjoys tennis, cooking, yoga, snowboarding and playing with her very cute and naughty Havanese puppy, Bodhi.
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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 BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.
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