Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) and the leadership of the AIDD Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SARTAC) are pleased to announce the 2019-2020 SARTAC Fellowship Award recipients.
Six Fellows were chosen through a competitive application process to carry out independently designed self advocacy leadership and policy-related projects. This is the third of four groups of SARTAC Fellows. Fellows are listed below with their hometown, brief biography, title and summary of their project, and Host organization.
To learn more about the SARTAC Fellowship, these outstanding self advocates, and the previous class of Fellows, click here.
SARTAC Fellows 2019-2020
Jeff Johnson: SARTAC Fellow from Columbia, Missouri
Fellowship project: “Confronting Segregated Education and the “School to Prison Pipeline”
Jeff moved to Columbia, Missouri after high school. He is married with four children. Jeff is president of People First of Boone County and an Advocacy Specialist at the Missouri Department of Mental Health. He trains others on topics like abuse and neglect, sexuality and relationships, social capital, self-advocacy, self-determination, disability awareness, rights and responsibilities, and Person Centered Planning. Jeff is currently enrolled at Moberly Area Community College, working on a degree in Political Science and Legal Studies to help people with developmental disabilities in the community. Jeff and his self advocacy group members believe too many students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are being taken out of regular education classrooms due to “behavior,” especially students of color. When students are segregated, they do not get the same chances to learn and make friends. Sometimes this causes them to get into trouble again and again, which can lead schools to call police. This sets a negative pattern and is called the “school to prison pipeline.” The project will look at how big the problem is, do a local survey, find out what has helped, learn about rights under the law, develop a resource toolkit for families, students, and advocates, and create a PowerPoint presentation.
John McCarty: SARTAC Fellow from Roswell, Georgia
Fellowship project: “It’s My Life - Expanding Supported Decision Making”
John is an active self advocate. Having worked to help start Uniting for Change, a local, grassroots self-advocacy organization, he is passionate about people with disabilities directing all aspects of their lives. John presents on disability issues throughout Georgia. Project: John’s goal is to expand Supported Decision Making knowledge with presentations, discussions, and a tool kit for people with disabilities, family members, support professionals and support organizations. He will continue working with the Georgia Advocacy Office as part of its Supported Decision Making Advisory Council.
Michelle Middlemiss: SARTAC Fellow from Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania
Fellowship project: “My Safety, My Rights”
Michelle became a self advocate after entering the Adult Autism Waiver in Pennsylvania. Her goal has been to bring increased awareness of the disability rights of her peers, by speaking at conferences and sharing the knowledge she gains while serving as a member on advisory boards that meet in Harrisburg.
Her project is called “My Safety, My Rights.” As a self advocate for autism, she wants to ensure that people understand what safety barriers can happen in community settings and what self-safety tactics they can use in the moment. Michelle wants to prevent misunderstandings of self advocates’ intentions by others and help people understand their rights so they can know how they should expect to be treated with respect and decency.
Christinne Rudd: SARTAC Fellow from Orange Park, Florida
Fellowship project: “Sustainability Planning for Self-Advocacy Group Networks”
Christinne helped start Magical (Making Advocacy Grow in Communities Across the Land), an Orlando, Florida grass roots self advocacy group. She is a blogger, mother of a 7-year old son, has Cerebral Palsy, and enjoys baking and reading in her spare time.
Christinne’s project will research different ways self-advocacy groups can raise money to keep operating and supporting self-advocacy. For the past 10 years, Florida Self-Advocates Network’D (FL SAND) has received money to operate from the federal government, but that funding will run out in 2021. The project will explore funding sources like making money from fees for self-advocacy training, raising funds from businesses and private donors who support disability rights and self-advocacy, and asking for funds from state disability organizations. It will also research endowments as a way to set up and maintain long-term sustainability. Christinne will produce a tool kit to help other state networks learn ways to raise funds to be self-sufficient.
Melissa is a Fellow from West Virginia.
Melissa Southall: SARTAC Fellow from Parkersburg, West Virginia
Fellowship Project: “Overcoming Transportation Barriers in Rural West Virginia”
Melissa grew up in Ohio and was a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley. She became a Self-Advocate Coordinator for the Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley. Later, she moved to West Virginia and became Coordinator at the Arc of West Virginia. Melissa promotes People First across West Virginia. She trains and talks to groups about topics such as knowing your rights, how to use self-advocacy, making information more accessible, making real changes to improve lives, increasing choices and quality of supports, and fighting against abuse and discrimination. Melissa is currently is on the Board of Directors for Disability Rights West Virginia. She graduated from Partners in Policy Making, attended Wrights Law Special Education Law and Advocacy Training, and graduated from the West Virginia Leadership Academy. She is the proud mother of two sons.
Melissa knows that transportation is often a barrier to people with disabilities. She wants to make full access and community participation possible across the state. Melissa will develop a survey for People First chapters and service agencies for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state. She will use the surveys to educate people about the project and its goals, seek input, and meet with groups to brainstorm ways to overcome transportation barriers. She will test the ideas to improve transportation. After people try the ideas, Melissa will review results to find if community access and participation changed.
Julian Wang: SARTAC Fellow from Fort Collins, Colorado
Fellowship Project: “Engaging the Younger Generation of Self Advocates”
Julian Wang is President of Speaking For Ourselves Colorado and Treasurer of People First of Larimer County. As President of Speaking For Ourselves, Julian is interested in increasing participation from self-advocacy groups across Colorado – especially in remote areas. Julian is exploring the use of assistive technology and video conferencing to see if this could be useful to self-advocacy chapters across the state. Julian is also active in his local community as a speaker, Special Olympics participant, and a former Board Member for The Arc of Larimer County. He is currently employed at The Home Depot as a Sales Associate. In his free time, Julian enjoys traveling, playing basketball, spending time with family, and attending church.
The purpose of this project will be to look at why youth and young adults with intellectual disabilities are not joining the self advocacy movement. This project will find barriers to youth and young adult participation in self advocacy groups. It will look for issues that are important to younger self advocates and learn how self advocacy can help youth work on problems they face. One outcome will be for youth to learn ways to take action in their local area. Julian will also create resources for self advocates and organizations interested in sponsoring a self advocacy group. Through a community wide survey, Julian’s project will help identify what is important to youth self advocates, how they define their community, best ways for them to learn about self advocacy, and what gets in the way of them becoming a part of current self advocacy groups.
If you would like to contact the SARTAC Fellows, please email Teresa Moore (email@example.com).