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Bio – Fellow – Past Fellows

Lizzy Francis, Communications Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Lizzy Francis smiling headshot with her hand on her chinLizzy Francis was a Communications Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Francis is a screenwriting major studying to create safe spaces for all groups of people, regardless of identity or ability.

She was born in Wayland, Massachusetts as a second-generation immigrant. At the age of 17, she was diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anorexia, resulting in numerous hospitalizations and a revelation that led to a passion of storytelling and activism through film, especially regarding mental illness and racial issues.

In 2017, Francis worked on an SXSW award-winning film in Vermont that aimed to integrate a crew and cast of people both with and without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Chiquita Jackson, Policy Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Chiquita Jackson smiling headshot in front of a brick wallChiquita Jackson was a Policy Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of the community.

Jackson studies Political Science, Social Justice, African-American Studies, and Pre-Law at the Columbia College of Missouri. As a student, Jackson held numerous leadership roles, including Black Prelaw Society President, Student Senator, the Student Legislative Awareness Board Outreach Director, and the Multicultural Student Government President. As a Student Senator, she wrote and passed legislation in the Student Senate to address the resource needs of students with marginalized identities. Jackson has several siblings with developmental disabilities. Jackson is passionate to ensure that her brothers and sisters voices are heard, and their rights protected. She is excited to work with RespectAbility to continue being a positive ally to the disability community. [continue reading…]

Maria Fernanda Heredia, Nonprofit Management Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Maria Heredia smiling headshot in front of a staircaseMaria Fernanda Heredia was a Nonprofit Management Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2020. 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 Orleans, Heredia graduated in June of 2020 from Williams College in Williamstown, MA, with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Highest Honors in Art. Her decision to pursue these majors came from a passion for learning more about the composition of materials and research, as well as learning about non-Western works of art that spoke about indigenous narratives in Latin America. While at Williams, Heredia was involved in various of student-led organizations and departments that centered around inclusivity, diversity, and equity. [continue reading…]

Angelique Uwabera, Nonprofit Management Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Angelique Uwabera smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Angelique Uwabera

Angelique Uwabera was a Nonprofit Management Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of the community.

Uwabera was also a returning fellow from the Spring 2019 cohort. She was part of the policy team in which she participated in raising awareness about issues affecting people with disabilities at Capitol Hill. She also published 14 press releases on the performance of some states in their employment progress for PWDs.

Uwabera graduated from American University, Washington, DC with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations in May 2019. Originally from Rwanda, Uwabera’s academic pursuit has been driven by her passion to serve and liaise international organizations with government agencies.

Uwabera was first drawn to disability issues when she lived in Gisenyi, Rwanda. She was neighbors with Ubumwe Community Center, a hub for people with disabilities to socialize with each other with the necessary facilities to their avail. UCC also provides education services for the students whose curriculum is customized to their needs. The enthusiasm of UCC community encouraged her to look out for a population that is largely marginalized in developing countries.

At the Fellowship, Uwabera will work on renewing a grant from Coca-Cola Company and drafting fundraising reports for RespectAbility’s completed projects. In the process, she hopes to learn innovative ways to fundraise sustainably through assignments and other learning opportunities offered by the development department.

In her free time, Uwabera likes to take long walks, preferably through serene spaces. If she’s not outdoors, you will find her tidying up her friends’ closets or reading a novel. Her top two books so far are ‘Not Without My Daughter’ by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer and ‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah.

Uwabera wrote 14 pieces during the 2019 Spring Fellowship. Read them on the RespectAbility Report:

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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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Nicole Homerin, Community Outreach Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Nicole Homerin smiling headshot in front of bushes and flowers. Homerin has long brown hair and is wearing a black shirt

Nicole Homerin

Nicole Homerin was a Community Outreach Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

As an incoming Doctoral student in Special Education at California State University, Los Angeles, Homerin has over a decade of experience working with individuals with disabilities. Homerin received her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Boston College, where she was the recipient of the Bernard A. Stotsky/Thomas H. Browne Prize for Excellence in Special Education. In addition, Homerin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Boston University. [continue reading…]

Laka Mitiku Negassa, Policy Fellow

National Leadership Program, Summer 2020

Laka Negassa smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Laka Negassa

Laka Mitiku Negassa was a Policy Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Negassa previously had the opportunity to be part of RespectAbility’s Summer 2019 Fellowship cohort. This fellowship experience opened her eyes more to the different public policy issues as well as health policy issues Americans with disabilities regularly encounter. This experience has enabled her to see and experience the kind of efforts required to have quality advocacy campaigns that are able to affect an issue and initiate solutions.

She had the incredible opportunity to speak at RespectAbility’s 2019 Capitol Hill Summit in a panel titled: Success Stories of Self Advocates. This fellowship experience allowed her to refine her communication skills, writing skills and most importantly enabled her to have a deep insight of the different policy issues Americans with disabilities come across with on a regular basis.

She is now part of RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Fellowship cohort on the Policy Team. She is learning through webinars and policy meetings how and to what extent marginalized communities, such as the disability community, is negatively affected when a country undergoes an emergency such as the current pandemic, COVID-19. This fellowship experience highlights how pivotal it is to have access to quality and continual care. This experience at RespectAbility in the Policy Team is teaching her the significance of Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) such as employment and access to nutritious food have on the health of an individual and community.

A student of health policy at George Washington University: Milken Institute School of Public Health, Negassa is working towards a Master’s degree in Public Health, with an expected graduation date of December 2020. Negassa is interested how health policy of a country is structured and affects marginalized communities such as the disability community, including access to health care and quality of care.

Born in Ethiopia, Negassa immigrated to the United States after completing her senior year of high school. She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she earned a Bachelor of Science, with a major in biology and minor in psychology.

Negassa planned to study medicine and interned in neuroscience research labs during and after college. An accident changed the course of her career. While walking home from a job in Cleveland, Ohio, Negassa was struck by a snowplow and dragged nearly 90 feet along the road. The accident caused a traumatic brain injury, along with organ lacerations and broken bones, requiring major medical interventions. The recovery took nearly two years and she needed physical, occupational and speech therapies. While recovering, Negassa personally experienced the health disparities and healthcare inequities encountered by most disadvantaged groups, such as Black women and immigrants.

She interned in Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services office where she fine-tuned her communication skills and first experienced working on issues affecting the disability community. During summer 2018, she interned at JBS International, a Bethesda consulting firm, where she summarized policy meetings and webinars on disability issues, gaining a deeper knowledge of the impact of health policies on the disability community.

In her free time, Negassa loves reading motivational books. She thoroughly enjoys baking and cooking for others.

Negassa wrote two pieces during the 2019 Summer Fellowship and contributed to a Maryland press release. Read it on our website:

JOIN OUR TEAM!

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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Lily Coltoff, Communications Fellow

National Leadership Program, Spring/Summer 2020

Lily Coltoff smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Lily Coltoff

Lily Coltoff was a Communications Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring and Summer 2020. 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 Philadelphia, Coltoff graduated in December 2019 from American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Public Health. Her decision to pursue these majors came from a passion for writing and science, as well as a desire to make health information more accessible and understandable to everyone. [continue reading…]

Demetrious Lara, Communications Fellow

National Leadership Program, Spring 2020

Demetrious Lara smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Demetrious Lara

Demetrious Lara is a Communications Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Lara is from Englewood, New Jersey. He currently is attending American University and is expected to graduate in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies. He also is minoring in Cinema Studies. After graduation, Lara hopes to seek employment within the entertainment industry as a social media manager, or in digital communications.

Lara’s professional experience includes a part-time communications internship at Friendship Place, a nonprofit organization focused on combating homelessness in Washington, D.C.  At Friendship Place, he worked alongside the development team’s social media and outreach manager to create effective promotional materials designed to gauge interest in their various programs aimed at many of the district’s homeless or housing-insecure residents. A key part of Lara’s tenure as an intern with Friendship Place was the promotion of Friendship Walks, a 1.5 mile walk around the National Mall aimed at raising money for their ongoing fight against homelessness.

Lara’s work as an intern for Friendship Place also helped him identify a prevalence of disability, be it nonvisible or visible, among individuals experiencing homelessness compared to the general population, which led him to join the RespectAbility team. His goal in completing the Fellowship is to hone his online content creation skills, which includes writing blogs and producing infographics.

In his spare time, Lara enjoys playing video games. Some favorites of his include classic DOOM, Metal Gear, and Metroid. He also considers himself something of a cinema aficionado. He enjoys science fiction movies such as Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. He takes great pleasure in pursuing these passions with his friends and family.

JOIN OUR TEAM!

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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Baksha Ali, Community Outreach Fellow

National Leadership Program, Spring 2020

Baksha Ali smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Baksha Ali

Baksha Ali is a Community Outreach Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring of 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Ali was born in Bangladesh. Her family moved to the United States when she was six years old because she was diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa. Ali attained her associate’s degree in Business Administration in LaGuardia Community College in New York City in June 2017. Recently, she graduated from Queens College with her bachelor’s degree in Sociology. During summer 2019, she was a Work Force Development Intern at Vision, a nonprofit organization that assists people with disabilities attain employment and find alternative ways to live an independent life. Her role consisted of conducting online research and locating job fairs and networking events for a client case load of 30 job seekers with disabilities.

Ali is interested in working for nonprofit organizations that work with people with disabilities because she is passionate about helping others. She will eventually pursue her master’s degree in Vocational Counseling.

Ali’s passions include listening to audio books and 90’s music. Her all-time favorite book is Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling. She loves chocolate and spending time with her friends and family. Ali loves to meet new people and wishes to travel around the world one day.

JOIN OUR TEAM!

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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John Rukeyser, Nonprofit Management Fellow

National Leadership Program, Spring 2020

John “Jack” Rukeyser smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

John “Jack” Rukeyser

John “Jack” Rukeyser is a Nonprofit Management Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for the Spring of 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Rukeyser was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he lived for five years before moving to the coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts. However, Washington, D.C., has become his new home during the school year since he started college there in the fall of 2017.

That school is American University, where Rukeyser is currently a junior on track to graduate in the summer of 2021. There, he studies Communications, Law, Economics, and Government in addition to pursuing a minor in History.

From a young age, Rukeyser worked alongside people with disabilities, volunteering at his local food pantry and community meals center. There, he realized that the most prevalent commonality among people who regularly came to the evening dinners was having a disability. Rukeyser hopes that his time at RespectAbility will help him understand the barriers and misperceptions that the disability community faces in a society that measures people on their profitability, not their individual strengths.

Rukeyser is happiest when he is road-tripping. Driving is his passion. He loves exploring new places and everything about the automotive world. He is fascinated by the underappreciated diversity of environments, neighborhoods, and cultures that can be experienced within just a short drive or on the way to a destination that flyers miss by about 30,000 feet.

JOIN OUR TEAM!

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.

ALL FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

LEARN MORE

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