Chicago Foundation for Women recognizes youth leader with Founders Award

Amber Smock, Access Living’s Youth Leadership Coordinator, will be awarded the Founders Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women in June 2008. The Award recognizes Amber’s commitment ‘to changing systems, laws and attitudes that prevent people with disabilities from achieving their full potential and rightful place in society.’

The Founders Award is intended to ‘support a younger woman advocate committed to social justice.’ Awardees use the prize for professional development, specifically for systems advocacy. Speaking about her work, Amber said, “We need more and different ways to express to the broader community that our concerns matter and are often of crushingly profound significance to our quality of life.”

With the award, Amber plans to train US women with disabilities and Deaf women on how to organize for systems change. She also intends to travel in South Korea and Australia to observe other women’s disability rights organizations and to chronicle what additional practices or changes could be added to organizations in the United States. Her mission, with her overseas travels and training US disability organizations, is to improve strategies for advocacy and direct action.

A Southern California native and University of California at Berkeley graduate, Amber came to Chicago to pursue her Masters at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating, she applied and was selected for Access Living’s Youth Leadership Coordinator position. In this position, she has worked toward empowering youth with disabilities to pursue their rights within the school system and within their communities.

“Honestly, I was shocked when I found out that I won the award,” said Amber, “I’m excited about doing things for the community and now I have the chance (with the help of the award). I hope the work that I do with this award will empower a lot of women and serve as a model of the kind of work that can grow a movement.”