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 RespectAbility Receives Grant from Ford Foundation to Create Harriet Tubman Fellowships

RespectAbility, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has been awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation that has enabled it to create and offer Harriett Tubman Fellowships to select participants in the National Leadership Program.
“Tubman acquired traumatic brain injury when a slave owner hit her with a heavy metal weight leading to epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Her work, while living as an individual with a disability, to free slaves and then for women’s suffrage is one of the great stories of how people with disabilities can help make a nation stronger and better,” notes RespectAbility in a press release about the grant and the new fellowships. 
“We’re thrilled to have this new transformative support. Thanks to the Ford Foundation, we’ll be able to strengthen and diversify our National Leadership Program for young leaders with and without disabilities who are going into public policy, advocacy, journalism, public relations and other leadership roles,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility.
“Previously, many people who wanted to participate in the program couldn’t do so because while it offered free lunch and a transportation stipend, it was an unpaid program. Now we’ll be able to pay $15 an hour to many of the fellows who otherwise couldn’t afford to do such a leadership program.”
The National Leadership Program has three cohorts of Fellows - in the fall, spring and summer - for a total of at least 24 Fellows. Eight will be Harriett Tubman Fellows.
RespectAbility’s first cohort of the Harriet Tubman Fellows includes:
Eddie B. Ellis Jr., who is a re-entry advocate/consultant, trainer, mentor and motivational speaker. As an individual with multiple disabilities and a person of color, Ellis’ experience provides invaluable insight and depth into his work that allows him to connect with and engage the community in which he serves. Ellis is also the founder and CEO of OneBy1, an organization that works with communities and partners to provide youth development workshops and mentoring services to keep youth out of the corrections system and help those exiting the system stay out.
Ming Canaday, who has recently completed coursework for a master’s degree in the history of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. During her time in Europe, Canaday - who uses a wheelchair - traveled extensively on the continent and to the University of Cape Town in South Africa to complete her dissertation research on contemporary attitudes toward rising Chinese migration to that region. From 2009 to 2013 she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, where she triple-majored in international studies, Chinese, and Asian studies. As an undergrad Canaday spent time in China interning at Justice for All, a disability advocacy organization serving individuals with disabilities and individuals with HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis B. She pursued a certificate post-graduation at the City University of New York (CUNY) in disability studies to better advocate for individuals with disabilities.
The National Leadership Program is designed to enable young leaders to gain critical skills, contacts and experiences necessary to be accepted into graduate school or go directly into careers in public policy, media or advocacy, according to RespectAbility.
In addition, the Ford Foundation’s grant will enable the non-profit organization to include more participants with multiple minority status and/or low-income candidates who cannot afford the nine weeks of unpaid training. Two to three Fellows each cohort will be awarded with the Harriet Tubman Fellowship, which is a paid fellowship.
“With the paid fellowships, we’ll be able to do our part to overcome the unequal opportunities sometimes created by unpaid internships,” RespectAbility Board Chair Donn Weinberg adds.
RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program is fully accessible for people with disabilities and offers full-time in-house job coaching, skills development, networking opportunities, assistive technology and personal care support. The grant further will allow RespectAbility to hire a personal care assistant or interpreters as needed by any Fellow participating in the program.
RespectAbility’s treasurer, Cal Harris, and board of advisors members, Janie L. Jeffers and Randall Duchesneau, will help shape the Harriet Tubman Fellowship program. And as a result of the new funding, RespectAbility is recruiting for a full-time director for the Harriett Tubman Fellows and the National Leadership Program.
Details about the program - and the position - are at respectabilityusa.com/about-us/career-opportunities/the-national-leadership-program.
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