MN LEND 2021-2022 Fellows Completion Ceremony

LEND Fellows Commencement Awards Ceremony


5:30 p.m.  Mingle

6:00 p.m.  Introductory Remarks & Thanks – Dr. Amy Hewitt, Director

6:10 p.m.  Alumni Keynote – Sheyhan Gelle

6:20 p.m.  Certificate Award Ceremony

7:00 p.m.  Thank you + gift opening 

7:20 p.m.  Closing Remarks – Dr. Andy Barnes

7:30 p.m.  Optional after-party

Ximona Pederson

Smiling woman wearing a reddish orange blouse.

I worked on a project called “Fostering Future Leaders.” This was a pilot project serving  undergraduate students who were first-generation college, low-income, and individuals within an unrepresented community. Our goal was to help these students explore careers and graduate opportunities within the maternal and child health disciplines. Although we experienced barriers with this project, I saw the benefits of piloting a new project, such as gaining campus connections, serving on panels, connecting with both faculty and students, and creating a framework of action steps for next year’s cohort. 

My LEND journey has been short and bittersweet. I thought I had a good understanding of individuals with  neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, but I now realize I barely understood the barriers this community experiences. I hope to take this information with me in my practice as a future school psychologist to partner better with the students and families we support while also enhancing my knowledge as an ally of the community.

Sahra Ali

Smiling Black woman wearing a hijab decorated in colorful feathers and leaves.

For my project I worked with Sally Sexton and the Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium (MIHEC). I supported their work and also created a survey to learn how Somali families of children with disabilities experience transition services. I also lead a Somali mom’s group that supports new moms of children with Down Syndrome. This year this group expanded to become national and international.  

LEND has given me more experiences to learn and advocate for children with disabilities and their families. It was very impactful for me to learn about early interventions. I learned about making higher education more inclusive and the transition process. My passion is helping families. I came to LEND hoping to learn more to share with my community. As a mom who has struggled, I want passionately to help other moms whenever they are struggling. 

Siuho Gong

Smiling Asian woman in black top.

One of the highlights of LEND for me was the program’s focus on interdisciplinary work. I feel that I have a well-rounded picture of the services that people with disabilities need and how each field plays a role in ensuring proper healthcare for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Additionally, the opportunity to hear from panels of people with disabilities and their loved ones was invaluable. Because I know that ableism is baked into the health sciences curriculum, I am skeptical when learning about healthcare from educational institutions. Thus, I always appreciate hearing the perspective of people who are affected by, and live with, the consequences of these systems, and what is truly helpful and what is unhelpful. Finally, learning about the policies that have been crucial to the disability rights movement provided a thorough foundation for the work it takes to secure the rights of people with disabilities. Disability history is long and ever-evolving, and the best time to take action is now and continuing into the future.

I greatly appreciated the well-roundedness of the learning opportunities throughout this experience. The fact that I could learn from conferences, workshops, lectures, podcasts, articles, clinic observations, and discussions amongst fellow trainees each felt like I was being exposed to a different corner of disability activism. LEND has definitely been one of my favorite learning opportunities throughout my formal education.

Shayna Hamiel

Smiling white woman wearing patterend shirt.

My goal for my LEND project was local promotion of the Learn The Signs, Act Early campaign and neurodevelopmental disability education in my rural community. I promoted early identification and support for developmental delays by hosting information tables at large community events and distributing materials on developmental monitoring. I provided laminated sets of milestone checklists to local clinics to use during well-child visits to initiate conversations about developmental concerns and provide objective measures for referrals. I also gave presentations to community parent groups, daycare staff, regional educators, and healthcare providers, teaching about the importance of developmental monitoring, and providing neurodiversity-affirming education about autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

LEND gave me the knowledge and confidence to serve as a resource and educator for my fellow Pediatric Doctor of Nursing Practitioner students and various communities. LEND also helped improve my advocacy skills for my children and myself. I was most appreciative of the interdisciplinary network and the chance to learn about the unique and important roles each LEND fellow plays in their individual communities and in supporting the disabled community. I hope to carry that network forward in optimizing collaboration for years to come!

Stephen Hays

Smiling white man wearing a grey shirt.

I worked on a project titled “Fostering Future Leaders.” Our goal was to mentor undergraduate students in programs that serve low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities, and assist them in finding graduate school opportunities, especially those in the maternal and child health disciplines. Our team piloted a program that connected with students through classroom visits, online meetings, and partnerships with faculty from other programs. We encountered many challenges, but learned a lot in the process. We created a framework for this project to continue in future years, highlighting what has worked and what has not, as well as a plan for future LEND fellows. 

This experience, and LEND in general, has opened my eyes and brought an awareness to issues that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. Coming into this fellowship, I thought I already had a good understanding of the issues faced by those with disabilities, but I learned that my previous knowledge only scratched the surface. The depth and breadth of the challenges and triumphs experienced by those in the disability community has been illuminated through research, anecdotes, lectures, and simply conversing with this diverse group of people. Once these disparities become apparent, they cannot be easily unseen. I will take this awareness with me to my career as a genetic counselor where I will use my voice to identify problems, create solutions, and effect change at work and in my community. I now have a network of allies and experts that I can utilize in the years to come.

Raniya Yimam

Smiling woman wearing a floral blouse, tan sweater, and beige hijab, with gold earrings.

LEND was a good experience for me. I want to thank everyone for being patient and bringing this together. It was all valuable information. I never thought I would be a fellow this year. It was a privilege to be part of these leaders who have a lot of passion for this field. What makes LEND different is the human-to-human connection, and it’s a lived experience. People live that life. It’s not filtered or anything, and hearing from experienced people has significantly impacted the room. It was so much information, and I have seen different professions that I didn’t even know existed. That really helped me to think about the gaps to be closed and how things will get better if people with different expertise will collaborate.

Thank you!

Abdul Fatawu Abdulai

Smiling African man wearing  a white button up shirt.

My LEND project was ICI community outreach and engagement. The main focus of this program is building relationships and strengthening engagement with the community. My mentor and I connected with the leaders of the Ghanaian Muslim group in Burnsville to talk about ICI’s work and how they can make their group more inclusive and play a crucial role in disability advocacy. I also participated in disability program development for the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

I am so thankful for my fellowship experience. I have learned so much about person-centered thinking, human-centered design, policy advocacy, IDDs, and community. Being able to experience this interdisciplinary cohort has allowed me to appreciate other professions, and I am optimistic these brilliant minds will make a difference in their spheres of life. Thank you to my mentor for his incredible wisdom and the rest of the faculty. Sawubona!

Andrea Castillo

Smiling Latina woman in patterned shirt.

During my LEND fellowship I was mentored by Dr. Jennifer Hall-Lande on the Learn the Signs Act Early (LTSAE) project, a public health campaign that focuses on reaching out to families, communities, and organizations to promote early screening and early identification of potential developmental delays. 

Becoming a LEND fellow allowed me to challenge myself professionally by deepening my knowledge about disabilities and inclusion in all areas of our society. I became a more effective advocate by doing cross-collaboration with my current fellows and finding intersections among all critical topics with relevant research-based information. My passion for educating the Latinx community about disabilities, especially autism, has grown through this experience. As a fellow, it is my responsibility to be a constant learner and educator so that I may continue to break the stigma surrounding disabilities and provide access to early intervention supports that center the needs of the family and child.  

Kalee Abu-Ghazaleh

Smiling white woman in a dress shirt and black blazer.

Over the last year, MNLEND has advanced my skills in interdisciplinary leadership, advocacy, and research, and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to become a better community member. As a fourth-year dental student, my LEND project involved a collaboration with Learn the Signs Act Early and the Give Kids a Smile event at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. I organized an outreach table with "Learn the Signs, Act Early (LTSAE)" developmental resources for children and families. The event served 96 children and families and included interprofessional collaboration with other health programs at the University of Minnesota (UMN). Interprofessional programs that were present at that event included medical school, speech pathology, public health, veterinary, and dental hygiene. All participants were from underserved communities. For the event, children in need of dental health services were identified through Portico Healthnet, a nonprofit organization that helps uninsured individuals and families access affordable coverage and care, and Ready Set Smile, an organization that helps school-age children access dental services. During the Give Kids a Smile event, dental care was provided free of charge and the children who attended were given a scholarship to cover additional dental care for the remainder of the year at the UMN School of Dentistry. The goal is to create a dental home for these children. 

Additionally, having other health professional programs present at the event, along with LTSAE, allows families to reach additional information, resources, and services in the community. An LTSAE table was set up with resources on developmental milestones, and posters were displayed with a QR code for families to download the CDC Milestone Tracker App. This event also allowed other health professional students, faculty, and community dental professionals to learn about LTSAE, and how these resources can be best utilized in their area of expertise. Going forward, LTSAE materials will be present in the pre-doctoral pediatric clinic for a patient’s first dental visit, which should occur by age 1. This MNLEND and MN Act Early collaboration was organized with my MNLEND mentor, Dr. Jen Hall-Lande.  

Thank you to all of the MNLEND participants, mentors, and staff for making our time with MNLEND so enriching. I look forward to utilizing this knowledge to contribute to meaningful and inclusive change for the disability community. 

Kadar Hadis

Smiling dark-skinned mam wearing a checked dress shirt.

Being a LEND fellow has been a wonderful experience. Everything I learned will help me with my current position with Hennepin County. I have learned alot about the disparities that impact people with disabilities, especially individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. As a community member and advocate for my clients, this program has served me well and allowed me to have a different lens than I had before I started the program. 

My project was two faceted, outreach about autism to the Somali Community in the Minneapolis metro area and translating documents about COVID-19 and the importance of getting vaccinated into the Somali Language. Unfortunately, my initial project about autism education outreach hit a roadblock due to extenuating circumstances at the organization I planned to work with. On the other hand; I have been able to finish translating the documents about COVID-19 and vaccine education.

Lucy Arias

Smiling Latina woman in black shirt wearing glasses.

This year I have learned so much that I am applying in my personal life, fellowship activities, and work. Through my LEND project, TeleHealth at MIDB, I was trained in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) and Early Intervention for Autism. It was such a good introduction to autism intervention and support. From this experience, I have moved toward the program’s Parent Education model. I used this information to guide my project. I switched project aims multiple times. In the end, I reviewed the Minnesota Department of Health’s autism portal for plain language and addition of resources; I also created a new tab for Play and Joint Activity. Play and join activity is the cornerstone of ESDM. I have been an early childhood educator for many years and have been interested in learning more about Autism for a long time. I’m grateful to have learned so much about it this year.

I have learned so much. The biggest takeaway from my LEND year is to continue to learn and seek experts to learn from. University scholars and doctors may be experts, but so too are parents, advocates, and siblings. I am a caring family member who wants to create systems that are inclusive and quality so all can grow and accomplish their goals. 

Milena Bates

Smiling woman wearing glasses and a blue shirt.

I am thankful that, in the beginning of the year, I received and followed advice to select a project I am not immediately comfortable and confident with, as long as the interest is there. The PATH project is a five-year effort, involving academics from multiple universities, to evaluate existing texts and practices, and create a new curriculum for professionals to work with people with IDD. I helped get information from existing materials, using a detailed coding tool. Reading all that research, and being guided on what information to look for in it, was a really new and valuable experience. Ialso participated in meetings with the leading team, talking about overall direction and important project details. The project is now about to look at the data collected for training parameters. 

All the LEND sessions came with really good resources, which I like to collect and share with people in the community. In addition to the multiprofessional knowledge gained, which might be the best part, I also learned about my strengths as a leader and where my contribution is best placed. Being able to apply understanding of systems and principles of human-centered design will be instrumental in creating new services and advocating for meaningful change. I gained experience, skills, and confidence in speaking to legislators in a way that builds connections and makes an impact. I am also better able to evaluate and use research and data in advocacy and designing resources and services. The experience with all the different clinical observations was a fantastic learning opportunity. Learning more about the LEND network and the work that the Institute for Community Integration is doing is adding more valuable context and helping to sharpen my vision for future work. I have never been this excited to work this hard and I am endlessly grateful for all of it. 

Nell Coonen-Korte

Smiling white woman in singlasses and bright blue patterned shirt.

Being part of this fellowship has been amazing and unique. LEND gave me the chance to dive deep into learning and understanding more about so many different types of neurodevelopmental disabilities. As a self  advocate, it has heightened my passion for helping change the lives of individuals with disabilities. In my LEND project, I am surveying parents, caregivers, and those with disabilities on how easy or difficult it is to navigate and receive disability services. I am also interested in policy  work, as it is another way to help individuals with disabilities hopefully have better lives. I feel this fellowship will help me with my life's mission: to ignite change in the lives of individuals with disabilities. 

Julie Yang

Asian woman with long hair wearing a grey shirt pulled up at the sleeves.

During my time as a LEND fellow, I worked on the Learn the Signs, Act Early project, promoting early developmental monitoring and early developmental screening through Help Me Grow resources within my local community. I participated in tabling events, social media outreach, community presentations, and distributing resources at local libraries. My aim was to empower parents to seek early intervention resources, normalize neurodiversity, and promote advocacy while also addressing the pervasive fears, shame, and stigma surrounding the topic of autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities within the Hmong community.  

My time as a MNLEND fellow has been invaluable. I gained the knowledge, leadership skills, and confidence to better advocate for system and policy-level changes that expand on services and supports, inclusion, and accessibility for the disability community. I am grateful for the lifelong connections I have made with the LEND network of interdisciplinary leaders and all the shared passion we have for serving the disability community.

Jennifer Gibson

Smiling white woman in charcoal grey t-shirt.

During my time as a LEND fellow, I decided to choose a project that was outside of my professional area and comfort zone. As a result, I decided to work with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) with Jillian Nelson as my project lead. Jillian helped me find a bill within the 2022 legislative package that I am passionate about, which ended up being the sensory-friendly event licensing bill. With Jillian’s guidance, I was able to learn more about the impact that sensory-friendly spaces have on the NDD community and then use that information to promote the bill through education and social media. While this bill did not end up getting a hearing, the educational resource I created will still be utilized and handed out at the AuSM conference to spread awareness for the bill in the next legislative session. Additionally, I was attended a community meeting and took  notes on ideas from the NDD community regarding the legislative agenda. Throughout my time in the AuSM project, I have learned that when seeking legislative change, it is essential to understand the experiences of those affected by ableist barriers within society.  

I have always had insecurities about my own disability, but LEND has provided me with a community where I feel seen and heard. With this safe space, I have been able to deepen my understanding of the NDD community across so many disciplines. I have learned how to better support and advocate for myself, and also the individuals and families I serve. I deeply enjoyed getting to know related professionals and self-advocates, and it brought me a great deal of joy to feel so connected with others through my experiences and passions. Additionally, I learned the importance of taking a step back and deepening my understanding of the underpinnings that shape the opinions and mindsets of others when it comes to the NDD community. I tend to have strong opinions, but I have learned not to be so quick to judge. 

Txing Vang

Smiling Asian woman wearing a brown sweater.

For my project, I worked with the Finestack Child Language Intervention Lab to identify multilingual children with language impairments. Short stories are used as part of a series of studies on identifying effective approaches to treat language difficulties for children of multilingual backgrounds. I translated a short story and questionnaire into Hmong for the Hmong language study. Afterwards, I helped with participant recruitment by disseminating the information within my network, community, and on social media.

Thank you to the fellows, staff, and faculty for an enriching interdisciplinary experience. It has been an insightful journey to be surrounded by passionate and caring people. As a community LEND fellow, I feel it is important to have this space available for others like me who would not have had an opportunity to participate unless already enrolled in an academic setting. I will continue to share the resources and information I have gathered with others and hope to pursue new interests I have discovered. 

Tayler Guccione

Woman with reddish hair holding a cat.

A community-driven project of any sort requires its leaders to remain adaptive and responsive to shifting landscapes. While the original goal of the mural project will still be realized, extenuating circumstances necessitated a different approach to the work at hand. My team and I were not able to work directly with the students on the physical construction of the mural, but we did refine its purpose and significance at Transition Plus school in Minneapolis. 

Through interviews and investigative research, we developed a written project to connect the community with the mural project. This article will be circulated on various communication platforms and reach a wide audience. Transition Plus and its students work intentionally to build bridges in the community and establish opportunities for people to gain professional and artistic agency in society. This writing project allowed my team to highlight the mission of Transition Plus, promote the valuable work performed by its students, and demonstrate the power of disabled art to the larger community.

Everything I know to be true about leadership I have learned from people with disabilities. Good leadership is not individual; it is collective. I see leadership as relational, interdependent, and cross-communal. Everyone has the power to be a leader. Collective leadership allows everyone to speak and live their truth. If we do not assert our truth, others will try to define it for us. 

Danny Roherty

Smiling white man with a short cropped beard.

LEND impacted my life and I learned from everyone here. I listened to their stories and made a podcast. I networked with the other LEND fellows and hope to reach out to them for possible interviews. I hope that you all know how much you all have impacted my life and my learning here at LEND. I also appreciated the Self Advocacy series with Katrina and John, as well as learning the roles of siblings of people with disabilities. This was insightful because I have a disability and now I have some insight into my siblings experience. I look forward to using what I learned in this year’s classes and will incorporate it into my living and learning about the system and how I can improve it. My podcast will help. Speaking to my step-mom will also help. She is an executive director of a nonprofit organization that helps people that are disabled and who are aging. She can help Minnesotans and Americans better understand people with disabilities and those on the autism spectrum.

Belle Khu

Smiling Asisan woman in seated position looking over her shoulder.

Through LEND, I gained a much deeper understanding of my own lived experience connected to neurodevelopmental disabilities and my peers and future field leaders. I especially saw the beauty of being in touch with other people of color peers united by our passion for serving and advocating for the disability community. I want to celebrate our approaches to equity, diversity, and hopefully, true inclusion, as we carry out the mission and passion for disability-lived experience, intersectionality, rich stories, and movements in our everyday lives. As a social worker, these formative didactics curated topics ranging from long term support services to Home and Community Based Services. Hearing from individuals with disabilities about their lived experience interacting with multiple service systems provided me with learning opportunities that I will carry for a lifetime. Each session offered new "lightbulb" moments to paradigm shifts. Furthermore, the directors and my peers shared resources, which motivated me to grow personally and fill gaps in my academic knowledge. Also, through my multiple projects at ICI, I aim to contribute to my field in a meaningful and engaging way.

The mentoring meetings broadened my conceptual understanding and current thinking about the characteristics and qualities of an excellent leader. I admit that I saw leadership as more hierarchal with a limited few in holding power. My thinking has expanded to more interdependence and communal leadership. There is a desperate need for more leaders with qualities such as patience, understanding, transparency, and bidirectional dialogs; the pressing social problems faced by marginalized individuals require it. In other words, we become leaders when we cultivate and elevate the most vulnerable in our community through our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. 

Brittany Miller

Smiling white woman in grey shirt with hair pulled back.

My work with the vaccine confidence outreach project helped me to better comprehend the depth and breadth of health inequity in marginalized communities. Conversations surrounding medical decision-making can be difficult, but this project provided me with the proper resources and tools to help facilitate these types of meaningful discussions. I was involved with vaccination efforts in the community and established connections with other like-minded individuals striving for accessible and inclusive healthcare. 

LEND has pushed me to develop my critical thinking skills and see the world through a different lens. It is astonishing how much perspective has been provided this year from such a diverse group of individuals. This fellowship tasked me with self-reflection and growth that will continue to serve me as a healthcare provider working to serve the disability community. I am forever grateful to all of my fellow peers and mentors that have been a part of this step forward on my journey to lifelong learning. 

Erika Lamboglia

Smiling white woman in floral blouse and glasses.

My LEND project was to execute a grant that aims to develop a more inclusive 4-H program.  The 4-H and ICI teams worked with two pilot clubs to establish inclusive practices that will eventually be expanded to clubs across Minnesota. I interviewed families to determine programming needs, helped develop training content for club leaders and youth, and delivered training for leaders and youth. It was inspiring to be part of a project that will break down barriers and make 4-H more accessible to all.  

The LEND fellowship expanded my knowledge of disability more than I could’ve imagined. The interdisciplinary and diverse environment, along with the variety of topics that we explored, provided significant opportunities for me to develop as a leader in the field. The LEND cohort, LEND leadership team, and the 4-H grant team have shared so much wisdom and I’m grateful to have learned from and with them. I’m eager, and considerably more prepared, to continue my advocacy as I strive for a more inclusive society as a parent advocate and social worker. 

Emma Marino

Smiling woman in blue blouse and white blazer.

The LEND program has changed me professionally and personally. Before LEND, I did not have a working definition of ableism. I move on from LEND understanding how ableism affects the neurodevelopmental disability (NDD) community every day and my role and responsibilities as an advocate. I look forward to also reframing my practice and lifeview as it relates to those with NDD as well as those who are neurotypical. It is amazing how positive and strong language impacts people of all backgrounds and how we should remember that we are humans first and that everything else is second.

I had the wonderful experience of being a part of the Fostering Future Leaders (FFL) project during my time with LEND. Our FFL group piloted a project to encourage undergraduate UMN students who are typically underrepresented in the Maternal and Child Health fields to explore opportunities. The basis that we established together as well as the community partnerships that we created will help this program thrive. Thank you to all of the LEND fellows and leaders for the opportunity this year to grow in a safe and supportive environment. The change I have experienced is invaluable.

Nevil Genjang Nuvala

Smiling African man in glasses wearing white shirt with emboridered pattern.

LEND gave me a deeper understanding of long term support services and the different models, especially Home and Community Based Services . It also gave me a broad understanding of the Medicaid waiver options and the situation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) living with a family member across different age groups and states in the U.S.

I have become a better advocate for people with IDD and have participated in advocacy sessions and wrote letters to House and Senate representatives. I have become a better direct support professional, more sensitive and supportive in a person-centered manner. I have learnt not to see disability as a weakness.

Hamdi Nur

Smiling woman wearing a pink blazer and mauve hijab.

During my time as a LEND fellow, I had the wonderful opportunity to work on a group project with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) with Jillian Nelson as my mentor. My project was to take a legislative bill that impacted people with disabilities and translate it into a plain language bill. Jillian provided me with helpful resources and tools I can use to translate the bill. Although I did not get the chance, I would have loved to meet the revisors to experience passing a bill with the AuSM team. I had a great time working with AuSM and learned a lot as a LEND fellow about policies and bills that impact people with disabilities. 

I enjoyed my time in LEND, getting to interact and learn more about working on an interdisciplinary team. I really liked how we learned from each other and gained a broader understanding and knowledge about how we can be a support system to individuals with NDD and their families. I honed my leadership skills and learned more about advocating and what it means to be a disability advocate. I learned more about the different policies and bills impacting the disability community. Overall, my time in LEND has allowed me to be a leader and introduced me to many resources I can look back on as I embark on my career as an occupational therapist. 

Annika Grassl

Smiling white woman in purple dress.

I worked on the IDD training for interdisciplinary health students. Through this project I surveyed a variety of training programs to identify best practices for teaching IDD to a variety of health students - from medical, to nursing and dental. The project highlighted the importance of live interaction to train students; it is more effective than case studies. 

Over the year, I was able to share my lived experience in a supportive environment. It was encouraging to see how such a diverse group could share insights and learn from each other. With different backgrounds, we were able to share varying viewpoints and different lived experiences that we tied to course content.

Caryn Donahue

Smiling white woman with curly hair in long-sleeved sweater.

Through my LEND projects, I’ve gained insight on the many barriers that families may face when accessing services and supports for their children with disabilities. I’ve learned how culture, language, geographical location, and transportation can all impact accessibility, and I’ve learned to think creatively and collaboratively in order to reach underserved communities.  

I’m very grateful for my LEND experience. Learning from my peers and colleagues across disciplines has been invaluable. I feel more confident in my role as a leader in the NDD community, and I will continue to advocate for the families and children I work with as I begin my professional career in speech-language pathology. Communication is crucial to self-determination, and I hope to support and empower individuals with disabilities to make their own choices and live out a life that is uniquely meaningful to them.   

Deeqa Hassan

Smiling Black woman wearing blue blazer and orange hijab.

Being part of this fellowship has been an incredibly useful and profound experience. Having an adult sister with immense and complex disabilities, I have had a lifetime of caring for her and navigating her medical care. While I have always been capable of doing so, my time at LEND has allowed me to develop additional critical thinking skills and insight into the many opportunities for advocacy I can engage in for her. 

It has also better placed me to advocate for my patients at work, all of whom are from predominantly underserved and marginalized communities. The LEND fellowship has also taught me to better understand health, health disparities, and outcomes, especially at the intersection of race and disability. I am grateful for all I have learned and will be sure to utilize my newly-learned skills both in my personal and professional life.

Erica Lee

Smiling Asian woman in jean jacked and wire-rimmed glasses.

Through my LEND project, I reaffirmed my love for the arts and how creative expression is a vital part of all our lives. In the focus group and interviews with community members of the Transition Plus school in Minneapolis, I learned about the critical services that transition programs provide to students with disabilities. We (Tayler and I) are writing our piece to share with our LEND cohort-mates and the larger community about the importance of transition services and the arts for people with disabilities. 

Through LEND, I have learned so much with and from my LEND cohort-mates and the weekly Thursday presenters. In my leadership journey, I will carry forward the learning I gained from the sharing of our lived experiences, thoughts, and continued actions to create change by my fellow cohort-mates. Finding and being a part of this intentional community of fellows has given me hope and a belief that we can be the change we want to see in this world. I am grateful to have had this experience with you all at LEND.

Betsy Olson 

Smiling white woman with curly redd hair in white blouse.

Working with a wonderful team of 4-H colleagues and researchers from ICI, we identified specific training needs for 4-H volunteers and staff. We have written curriculum to meet many of those needs, including training on cultural competency, accommodations, person-first language, strengths-based approaches, and belonging. We also interviewed parents and volunteers to understand programmatic needs to help make 4-H more inclusive. 

This year I have been empowered, inspired, and informed. The weekly sessions have taught me countless lessons about the current progress and needs of people with disabilities. LEND has also helped me to feel the critical importance of this work and I leave with an inspiration to make changes in the youth development field. 

Will Dyke 

Smiling white man in medical doctor uniform with stethescope around his neck.

I worked on an IDD training project for health professional students. It was very eye-opening to see what has been done and how much there is left to accomplish in terms of educating our future healthcare providers on neurodevelopmental disabilities.

I was blown away by my classmates' tireless work and ability to convey their experiences and ideas. Unfortunately, my LEND experience was a bit fragmented as a medium-term fellow. It was difficult to be fully involved in the project and I regret not being able to give more time. However, the work I was involved in was very moving and will be a large motivating factor in my future career when treating patients. The healthcare system has many systemic downfalls, which unfairly impact people with disabilities more frequently and more significantly than people without disabilities. The most important thing I took from my time in LEND is the importance of getting involved in governance and policy to help create change in our society.

Teleoutreach Center Trainees

Co-developing More Inclusive 4H Programs

Jenny Cable is a 4-H Extension Educator with the Center for Youth Development where she supports youth, families, and volunteers in Ramsey County. Jenny is one of the TeleOutreach Center’s LEND trainees and works with professor Courtney Hess as one of her primary community partners. Together they are working with community stakeholders to develop more accessible 4-H programs. Relevant community stakeholders supporting this project include the Minnesota Department of Special Education with Mr. Garrett Petrire, Mrs. Abbie Herzog-Wells with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and Dr. Sarah Hall, a researcher within ICI. Jenny and Courtney are partnering with faculty mentors, PI: Jessica Simacek; Co-PI: Jennifer Hall-Lande; and project manager Muna Khalif.  

Future Employment Options in Technology for NDD transition-age youth 

​Cassandra Silveira is an Extension Educator in the Center for Family Development as a coordinator for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Cassandra is partnered with community leader Joy Kieffer to improve the future employment opportunities in technology for NDD transition-age youth. Both Joy and Cassandra are being mentored by the ICI-TeleOutreach Center faculty leadership team, ​PI: Jessica Simacek; Co-PI: Jennifer Hall-Lande; and project manager Muna Khalif.  

Supporting Infant Mental Wellness by Supporting New Somali Moms 

Cari Michaels is a public health educator at UMN Extension, in partnership with leaders across Minnesota to promote mental well-being. She is partnering with Lauren Moberg, Infant and Early Childhood Director at Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health; Mollie Kohler, social worker, PhD student; Maryan Ali, community activist and 191 School District translator; Sahro Abdullahi, cultural liaison with District 191; and Ifrah Nur, the director of a local childrcare center.  They are working together to create a five-week postpartum education and support program for Somali parents to promote mental wellbeing and self-care for moms and newborns, with the support of the ICI-TeleOutreach Center leadership team. Cari is partnering with faculty mentors, ​PI: Jessica Simacek, Co-PI: Jennifer Hall-Lande, and project manager Muna Khalif. 

Community Partners: Lauren Moberg, LMFT, IMH-E, Ifrah Nur, Parent Advisory, Mollie Kohler, PhD Student,Social Worker, Maryan Ali, Parent Advisory, Sahro Abdullahi, Parent Advisory

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