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Bio – Apprentices

Erica Mones, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Erica Mones

Erica Mones (she/her) is an Entertainment and News Media 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.

Mones is a writer, YouTuber, and disability advocate. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Disability Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She earned her Bachelors in Writing and Classical Civilizations from Loyola University Maryland in 2020 where she interned at the school’s Center for Community, Service, + Justice; and served as a research assistant for a professor designing a disability history course. She was disappointed to see that among the various clubs students could join, there were none led by disabled students for disabled students, so she decided to found such a club, called “Disability Is Diversity.” She ran for student government and was elected as a class senator with the goal of improving accessibility on campus and keeping disability on the radar of both student leaders and school administrators. [continue reading…]

Arianna Montaño, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Arianna Montaño

Arianna Montaño is a Nonprofit Management 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.

Montaño is from the San Diego-Tijuana region. While Spanish is her first language, she learned to speak English at age six. She graduated with honors from the University of California, San Diego, where she earned her B.A in Sociology. Her senior thesis project discussed college students with hearing loss and their experiences in school. [continue reading…]

Gabriella Helkowski, Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Gabriella Helkowski

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. [continue reading…]

Jessenia Leaphart, Policy Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Jessenia Leaphart

Jessenia Leaphart is a Policy 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.

Leaphart is a Champion of Change and honoree of social innovation and civic participation from the Obama Administration. She works in underserved communities to increase access and amplify equity in the areas of education and healthcare. With a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University, her work has included women and girls, mental health clinics, inmates within the Florida correctional system on death row, and children with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Gabrielle Zwi, Policy Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Gabrielle Zwi

Gabrielle Zwi (they/them) is a Policy 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.

Zwi is a community organizer, educator, and musician based in Rockville, Maryland. In October, they will graduate from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights. Zwi advises a local youth organization called DC Teens Action, serves as a Commissioner on the Human Rights Commission of the City of Rockville, and is a Public Representative on Montgomery County’s Committee Against Hate/Violence. They have previously worked as the Community Mobilization Intern at Keshet, as the Director of Community Engagement on Joe Vogel’s Campaign for Maryland State Delegate, as a Personal Support Staff in a caregiving agency, and as a Disability Justice Liaison through Columbia University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. [continue reading…]

Lex Paul, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Lex Paul

Lex Paul is a Nonprofit Management 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.

With a background in Community Organizing and Development, Paul is passionate about shining a light on injustice and prejudice, working to build understanding across the political and social spectrum through education and engagement. [continue reading…]

McKenzie Stribich, Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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McKenzie Stribich

McKenzie Stribich [she (preferred)/they (used sometimes)] is a Faith Inclusion and Belonging 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.

Stribich is cis, queer/gay, neurodivergent, and physically disabled, and walks with forearm crutches. She was born and raised in Long Beach, California, where she lives with her one-eyed cat, Diamond. She holds a BFA in photography from California State University, Long Beach, and works as a freelance Technical Writer and Editor in business immigration law. She’s rediscovering her dormant love of reading (often a struggle because of her ADHD), and is a lover of music and swimming. She is a progressive Episcopalian Christian who loves learning and understanding how things work. [continue reading…]

Reagan Martin, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Reagan Martin

Reagan Martin (she/her/hers) is an Entertainment and News Media 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.

Martin is a proud disabled and chronically ill actor, advocate, and graduate student based in North Texas. She is a former Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholar and College Scholar, having worked with the Foundation from 2008 until 2020. Martin graduated with distinction from the University of Oklahoma in 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History with concentrations in American History, Jewish History, and Intellectual and Cultural History. During her time at OU, Martin served as an orientation counselor, first-year teaching assistant, and peer educator with the Gender + Equality Center. Martin was also the inaugural recipient of the Elizabeth Garrett Award for History. She is a proud initiate of Phi Beta Kappa, member of the American Historical Association, and alumna of Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority. [continue reading…]

Shira Leeder, Leadership Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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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. [continue reading…]

Nicona MacDonald, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2022

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Nicona MacDonald

Nicona MacDonald is a Nonprofit Management 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.

MacDonald is a workforce development professional with a passion for building a more inclusive world and increasing employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. She has a bachelor’s degree in Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and more than a decade of experience in the nonprofit and higher education fields. She has worked as an employment placement specialist, a manager of peer mentoring programs, and as a university admissions reviewer. [continue reading…]

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