Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Message from Marca Bristo, on Access Living’s Disability Justice Mentoring Collective

as shared by Access Living of Chicago...

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
I am reaching out to tell you about Michael Bucci, an alum of Access Living’s Disability Justice Mentoring Collective (DJ/MC).  Michael is currently finishing up his first semester at Southern Illinois University. Read below to learn about his story. 
In the spirit of the holiday season, we ask that you make a donation of what you saved on BlackFriday (or more!). Your contribution will go a long way in helping us continue with the work we do.
Michael Bucci joined Access Living’s Disability Justice Mentoring Collective as a sophomore in high school. Since then, he graduated from high school with honors, and he is now a freshman at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale, majoring in Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
Prior to his junior year at Von Steuben High School, Michael recalls trying to hide his disability in an effort to blend in with other students. For Michael, this meant not accepting the accommodations that he was entitled to by law and refraining from asking questions during class because he didn’t know if his teachers and classmates would be patient with him. Though he tried hard, Michael struggled and his grades suffered.
As a student with an autism spectrum disorder, addressing academic challenges was difficult without proper accommodations. Michael realized that he needed to take control of his education. He joined Access Living’s Disability Justice Mentoring Collective, otherwise known as DJ/MC. Through DJ/MC, Michael was paired with an adult who mentored him about taking pride in his disability and learning strategies for navigating the challenges of everyday life. Consequently, Michael also began accepting extra time on tests, utilizing his school’s note takers, speaking up for himself and asking for help. He found that being straightforward about his disability completely transformed his school experience and people understood. “As time went on I realized that asking for help made things easier. Accepting my disability helps a lot,” Michael recalls.
Eventually, Michael’s hard work paid off. He received the Amelia M. Podraza Achievement Scholarship Award for addressing challenges as a student with a disability, and the Duke Rubin Memorial Scholarship Award for students who are positive, cheerful and kind to others. By his senior year Michael was outgoing, highly regarded by his classmates and was elected Homecoming King. In spring of 2013 Michael graduated from high school with a 3.75 GPA.
As he completes his first semester at Southern Illinois University, Michael feels better prepared for the challenges that college brings. “Access Living helped me prepare for college by teaching me to have my own independence and speak up for myself. They taught me how to interact with different kinds of people.”
Passionate about healthy food alternatives and spreading this knowledge to others, Michael is majoring in Human Nutrition and Dietetics and aspires to become a dietitian. He is involved with the Student Nutrition Academic Council (SNAC), and enjoys bowling, basketball, going to football games, and meeting new people.
Anticipating what’s in store, Michael identifies his difficulties and sets attainable goals. “My goal is to do well in class. I want to get A’s and B’s, I don’t accept C’s. I care about good grades because I don’t want to be an average kid; I want to be an above average kid, for sure. I also want to manage my time better and be better at balancing, without any problems, without missing anything.”
Your donation today will help Access Living’s DJ/MC program help more people like Michael achieve their full potential. We can’t continue our important work without you.
Any amount you can give makes a difference. If you have never given before, now is the time. Your donation will be doubled, thanks to a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor! And, if you have donated previously and can manage to give a little more, the increase in your donation will be matched!
Thank you so much for everything you do to empower individuals with disabilities.
Marca Bristo
President and CEO
P.S. Generous people like you are truly what allows us to continue to make an impact for individuals with disabilities. Please make a donation today- you can also donate online at our website www.accessliving.org.

DJ/MC is cross disability mentoring group in which high school students with disabilities are paired with an adult mentor. The group is dedicated to the idea that identifying as a person with a disability is an important step in the process of becoming an advocate for social change.
For information about enrollment for the 2014 DJ/MC program, contact Candace Coleman at 312-640-2128 or at ccoleman@accessliving.org.

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