WI LEND offers interdisciplinary and leadership training to over 30 trainees a year across over a dozen disciplines, including audiology, disability advocacy (person with a developmental disability), family, genetic counseling, human development and family studies, medicine, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, public health, social work, special education, and speech/language pathology. All trainees build competency in MCH Leadership Competencies, but every trainee’s leadership journey is also unique.
Cindy Petros, 2021 WI LEND OT Graduate
Stasia Wilson, 2021 WI LEND Disability Advocacy Graduate
Cindy Petros is a 2021 occupational therapy (OT) graduate of WI LEND—a parent of a child with special healthcare needs and self-advocate for better inclusion of students with disabilities in higher education. Cindy aspires to increase occupational therapy’s role in the care of Veterans with service-connected disabilities and their young children. Cindy’s primary LEND goal was to better serve Brown and Black families as OT in her community in a culturally humble and linguistically competent way. Cindy’s WI LEND experience was enhanced by participating in a more racially diverse cohort, which best matches the families and children LEND trainees serve. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that my LEND cohort had more Black and Brown trainees than ever before in all disciplines,” said Cindy. “I cannot express enough how important it was to see and work along with other Latinas, Latinx trainees during this year.”
Stasia Wilson is a 2021 Disability Advocacy graduate. Through WI LEND, Stasia mentored young children who use an augmentative communication device. Her main goal is to inspire them to talk through their communication devices during her time with the kids. “I achieve this by talking to them through my machine. That strategy has been successful; their parents expressed that was the most they saw their kids talk. Seeing successful AAC users gives the children hope and a role model. When I was growing up, I was the only one who was intelligent with a communication device. I felt lonely. Once I met another individual who also used a device, I felt an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders. I realized I wasn’t alone anymore. As I met more people who communicate similarly, I had a new sense of community. I enjoy being an advocate for children with disabilities.”
Ida Winters is a 2021 Family Discipline graduate who has taken the skills she gained through WI LEND back to her career as a Community Health Worker in Milwaukee, WI. She felt empowered as a leader, equipped with more knowledge and connections, to be a more effective advocate for the families she works with. Ida also became a more effective advocate for her own family, which includes her three children with special health care needs. Policy training was an unexpected bonus for Ida during her LEND training. “I never expected to be able to advocate at a higher level than local representatives, thereby making a bigger impact.” As a parent and Community Health Worker, Ida is very familiar with the challenges families face. She has been busy using her new research and dissemination skills to find evidence that can help create better solutions for the issues she is most passionate about.
Danielle Gerber is a 2021 Family Discipline graduate, and an advanced Family Fellow in the 2021-22 WI LEND cohort. She was nominated to be WI LEND’s Trainee Liaison in AUCD’s Emerging Leaders network. In this role, she works alongside other LEND and UCEDD Trainee Liaisons who identify strategies to improve trainee networking and the exchange of information between programs within the AUCD network. Danielle was happy to accept the opportunity to enhance her leadership skills and build relationships with trainees from other programs. She was especially interested in learning more about how trainees across the network are learning from family and self-advocate perspectives, and how programs are using stories from lived experience to shift trainees’ perspectives. “Being part of the AUCD network is a great way to have access to a vast amount of resources from diverse perspectives. It is so rewarding to be able to collaborate with a group of like-minded individuals who care about similar things, which for me is improving the systems of care for children with disabilities and their families.” Danielle will use her leadership training from LEND and the AUCD emerging leaders network to find new ways to engage family members and self-advocates in sharing their stories for the purpose of educating others, shifting perspectives and demonstrating the power of lived experience.
Abby Tessmann is a 2014 Disability Advocacy graduate. Abby has taken the policy and leadership skills she learned in LEND to the local, state and national levels, advocating for disability rights. Abby meets regularly with legislators to tell her story. She uses her social media presence to inform the public of upcoming disability advocacy events. Abby is a graduate of the Cutting-Edge Program at Edgewood College. The WI-LEND program provided Abby the opportunity to discover her passion for disability policy and advocacy. Abby continues to contribute to LEND through participation in panel discussions. Stay up-to-date on disability advocacy at Abby’s Facebook page!