"I BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE HAS UNIQUE GIFTS TO OFFER
AND THAT SHARING THESE GIFTS WITH COMMUNITIES
Self-interest is insufficient for a meaningful life. Our connection to others gives life meaning and value. I believe identity is determined by genetics and upbringing, neither of which we have control over. Attributes are unequally distributed and individual success is often the result of chance, luck, and unfair advantage. For this reason, we should remain humble about our personal attributes and accomplishments. And yet for most of us, we remain burdened by our sense of self and the claustrophobia of our self-interest.
Service is a way in which we can transcend ourselves and find meaning through empowering others. Working to ensure full social inclusion for individuals with disabilities is my personal and professional mission. Advocacy can broaden social perceptions of disability, creating pathways to greater social access and belonging. I hope I can play some small role in contributing to a more inclusive and interconnected community.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to become active members of their community. Through employment, volunteering, or meaningful social activities, communities become stronger when all members are included and play an active role. Too often, disability isolates individuals from social engagement and inclusion. I am fortunate that my career allows me to develop pathways to inclusion and help demonstrate the meaningful roles individuals with disabilities can play in their communities’ success. Because my own life has been enriched by helping others, I want to create opportunities for people with disabilities to help their communities, and in doing so to learn more about their personal value and their connection to others.
My family taught me to value empathy, compassion, and inclusivity. I learned to be mindful of my own advantages and conscious of the challenges other individuals face in life. My parents taught me that there is a limit to what we can achieve for ourselves and that true personal fulfilment comes from empowering others and giving back. In high school I was able to volunteer with the Special Olympics and special education classes. I was affected by the honesty and sincerity of emotion in the people I worked with. My first job in the human services field involved one on one care for children with autism. I learned more about the challenges families of children with disabilities face and the importance of listening in effective communication. I learned to connect with people where they are at instead of where we may wish them to be.
My experiences with people who have intellectual disabilities taught me a lot about honesty and intrinsic value. There was no artifice in our interactions and learning from them made me feel more genuine and honest as well. These experiences changed my life and taught me that there is a more honest way of connecting with others and that individuals with disabilities can have profound impacts on the people they meet. I believe that everyone has unique gifts to offer and that sharing these gifts with communities enriches everyone. I want to facilitate these connections and widen the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to positively influence their communities. I believe advocacy involves encouraging people to uncover their strength and developing opportunities for them to share their strength with others.
Through work as a Behavior Analyst and CAP QMRP, I met my current boss, Cape Fear Group Homes, Inc. Executive Director Ed Walsh. My career has been possible because of his guidance and support. He encouraged community involvement and made me a better advocate. I began working as Director of Vocational Services with Cape Fear in January 2012 and assisted in the development of a vocational program that now serves 19 counties in North Carolina and has assisted more than 350 individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment.
I hope that my role as an advocate has been of benefit to the individuals I serve. I know they have benefited me and given me a sense of meaning and purpose. Everyone has value that can enrich the lives of others. I believe advocacy offers a path through the illusion of separation and a way to create for both ourselves and others a meaningful life.