Advancing Inclusive Mentoring
On July 20, 2021, just days before the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and in the middle of Disability Pride Month, the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) joined MENTOR National and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) for a Youth Mentoring Caucus Congressional Briefing, Advancing Inclusive Mentoring. The briefing explored opportunities in training, accessibility and funding models that mentoring programs can utilize to increase inclusion and participation by youth and students with disabilities.
As Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Youth Mentoring Caucus and host of the briefing, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), provided opening remarks that called for a variety of innovations, including:
- Incorporate mentoring into a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP);
- Disrupt the school to prison pipeline with mentoring interventions;
- Support independent living, post-secondary education, career goals and transitions through mentorship;
- Invest in a national paid peer mentoring workforce for young people
- Expand accessible eMentoring programs; and,
- Expand the National Mentoring Resource Center to include more disability inclusion and accessibility technical assistance.
Next, the briefing included recorded remarks from Rep. James Langevin (RI-02) and Rep. Don Young (AK), the Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Disabilities Caucus. Rep James Langevin provided remarks about his personal experiences with mentors, his support of youth mentoring grants at the Department of Justice, and reviewed mentoring as a strategy to improve education and employment outcomes for people with disabilities. In closing, Rep. Langevin stated his support for inclusive mentoring:
“With help from MENTOR, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and their allied organizations, Congress can close the mentoring gap and expand the inclusive mentoring movement.” – Rep. Langevin
Next Rep. Young provided remarks and his support as Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Disabilities Caucus. Specifically, Rep. Young provided remarks about the importance of access to employment opportunities and the importance of access to mentors to help people with disabilities to both understand they are accepted and that can also contribute.
MENTOR’s mission is to fuel the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people and to close the mentoring gap for the one in three young people growing up without this critical support. During David Shapiro’s remarks, he thanked the Milbank Foundation for their support in in bringing MENTOR, PYD and NDMC together in building and providing training, support and public awareness around disability inclusion and accessibility in mentoring. Specifically, David said:
“So it really takes us all to build a movement, to break up systemic challenges to instead of thinking of the number of seats at the table to make sure not everyone has just a seat at the table but feels that they could sit at the head of the table, they could write the menu., they could make the meal. They have the purpose and belonging, thriving and striving to be the folks they want to be in this world. This is the universality of human connection, our enemy is isolation and we recognized very early … there was going to have to be extra effort to bring the mentoring field and mentoring movement to further understanding of differing abilities, of inclusivity, of how to make their programs the most vibrant and inclusive places.” – David Shapiro
A little later in the event, Regina Snowden spoke on behalf of PYD, a mentoring organization she founded in 1985. Today, PYD’s goal is to create a world where young people with disabilities will be able to live with dignity and pride in who they are, and to lead self-determined lives filled with purpose. As the organization home of NDMC, PYD has been working closely with MENTOR on a first of its kind Disability Mentoring Certification Program to help increase disability community understanding and inclusion competencies for mentoring organizations that are listed in the national Mentoring Connector. This training program facilitated its first cohort from February to May and MENTOR, PYD and NDMC are seeking to expand the program after a successful inaugural cohort. Regina also spoke of the thousands of youth that have been mentored through a variety of mentoring program models and are now thriving with careers and are serving as mentors to the next generation of youth with disabilities. She also highlighted how NDMC’s network of mentoring programs needs more guidance and funding to build capacity and expand impact to more youth and students with disabilities.
“We seek to expand the technical assistance and support to more organizations, all implementing quality mentoring programs…. We appreciate the mentoring and disability communities coming together to increase access to mentoring and roles through accessibility and inclusive mentoring models.” – Regina Snowden
Next, Abbie Evans, the Senior Policy Director for MENTOR, introduced Xian Horn, Advocate and Founder of Give Beauty Wings, Forbes Contributor, and NDMC Advisor. Xian served as the emcee for the balance of the program and did a fantastic job of connecting important themes of inclusive mentoring, self-esteem, and the critical importance of having role models and mentors available to young people with disabilities.
Xian introduced Maria Town, President and CEO of AAPD who then facilitated a panel with Hamza Jaka, Gardiner Koch Weisberg and Wrona and Willenson Law, AAPD Alumni and Ambassadors Council Member, Mentor for the AAPD Summer Internship Program and Louis Paniccioli, AAPD Summer Internship Program, Intern at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the Office of Federal Operations. While it was a casual conversation, the depth of advice from Hamza and Louis as a mentor/mentee pair participating in the AAPD Summer Internship Program.
During the segment, Maria identified a need “to create a culture where mentoring of everyone, but particularly young people who are multiply marginalized and who experience barriers to education or the workforce have an expectation of mentoring.” She also framed how multiply-marginalized communities have not framed mentoring as the norm and then asked Hamza and Lou to provide policymakers recommendations to help multiply-marginalized access mentors. Hamza referenced the importance of supporting the Mentoring Foster Youth and Mentoring for Success Acts, using evidence-based models, paying mentors for their time, and championed the importance of “having access to mentors who understand and accept the systemic barriers that multiply-marginalized people … face.” Louis commented on the value of virtual mentoring programs and challenged everyone to create an AmeriCorps-style peer mentoring workforce, a professional workforce of trained peer mentors with disabilities. Hamza closed the panel out by stating the need to have a mentor for everyone.
Native American Youth
Next, Xian introduced Jim Warne, Owner and President, Warrior Society Development, LLC and on the staff at the University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities. Jim, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, provided remarks on the importance of mentorship for native youth.
“American Indians have the highest rate of disability and the lowest rate of services. There is a great need …. A lot of the reality of disability culture and native culture is I see similarities and a parallel between the cultures because, as I say, we are often forgotten in Congress or in national perspectives…. I see both cultures have a great responsibility to mentor and guide are young ones so they are the future warriors.” – Jim Warne
Jim’s eloquent remarks showcased the needs for more disability mentor examples in Native country to help individuals in handling the realities of poverty, youth suicide, underfunded Indian Health Services and low life expectancy rates. While the challenges are clear, Jim provided a positive view of how indigenous and disability communities can align and support each other.
Policy & Program Priorities
To conclude the event, Xian introduced Edmund Asiedu, Policy Analyst for Accessibility & Disability Services Facilitator, New York City Department of Transportation, and member of the NDMC Board of Advisors,. Edmund provided his personal perspective and story on the power of mentoring in his journey from Ghana to the United States and to his career in disability inclusion. His personal reflections emphasized the importance on mentors in informing individuals with disabilities about their civil rights and ways to access opportunities.
Edmund then framed the below Policy & Program Priorities of MENTOR National, NDMC and our partners:
Connecting with mentors. Removing barriers to inclusive mentoring practices; Increase awareness of the Mentoring Connector and Disability Mentoring Programs; Expanding Disability Mentoring Certification programming; Adding inclusion and accessibility technical assistance support services at the National Mentoring Resource Center.
Connecting with role models. Supporting the Mentoring to Succeed Act and Foster Youth Mentoring Act; Enhancing technical assistance to increase capacity for Centers for Independent Living and other disability-led organizations to leverage Vocational Rehabilitation Pre-Employment Transition Support Services funding and to expand the provision
Building a peer mentoring workforce. Investing in a national paid peer mentoring workforce, including a peer mentoring technical assistance center, channeling young people with disabilities who choose work the chance to start work while providing roles models and mentors to youth
and students with disabilities.
Delivering inclusive and accessible e-mentoring solutions. Expanding e-mentoring connections to a common digital exchange platform; Including e-mentoring as a category in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention mentoring programs initiative; Building accessible infrastructure to help close the learning loss gap for students with disabilities by embedding mentors with disabilities for support and reducing isolation.
Access and share the Policy and Programmatic Priorities
Inclusive Mentoring Resources
To join MENTOR’s Youth Mentoring Advocacy Coalition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, please email email@example.com.
Advancing Inclusive Mentoring Collaborators
While NDMC, MENTOR National and AAPD partnered with the Youth Mentoring Caucus and the Disabilities Caucus in the planning of this event, and we were joined by the panelists, we were also grateful for our collaborating partners for inclusive mentoring, including: PolicyWorks, the World Institute on Disability, The Viscardi Center, Bronx Independent Living Services, Cornell University Yang Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, Access Living, Disability Lead, MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC AMERICA FOUNDATION, American Public Health Association Disability Section, Disability EmpowHer Network, and BroadFutures, Inc.
This larger collaborative will be working together to plan and host a Community Inclusive Mentoring Event on September 23, 2021.
Access the Full Briefing Recording
This Congressional Educational Briefing was a milestone event — an opportunity for the disability and mentoring communities to come together, identify priorities and work with Congressional and community partners on advancing inclusive mentoring.