Mary Lee Ahern
DJMC & YIELD Coordinator
At Access Living, we take a lot of pride in the work we do with young people, which includes our mentoring program, the Disability Justice Mentoring Collective (DJMC).
DJMC pairs disabled youth with adult mentors. Throughout the program, Access Living educates mentees about disability rights, personal identity and disability, and ways in which they can take action on issues that impact them, whether it’s standing up for their right to an accommodation or understanding the nuances of their Individual Education Plan (IEP). Ultimately, this helps our mentees develop confidence, independence, and the tools to be their own advocates.
“I believe it is important for all young people to have a person who can coach and advise as necessary.”Kim Smith, DJMC Mentor
“Young people deserve to see that disability doesn’t encumber dreams,” said Katie Blank, Manager of the Youth Institute. “Disability mentorship is about furthering the power and independence of youth with disabilities. Youth with mentors are 52% less likely to skip school and 55% more likely to enroll in college.”
DJMC has proven to be beneficial to not only mentees, but also to their mentors. Mentors regularly return or extended their mentoring relationship with their mentees. While mentors and mentees are expected to commit to DJMC for at least one year, pairs often stick around much longer.
“It is a win-win situation, it is rewarding and you are making a difference,” said Mary Lee Ahern, DJMC Coordinator. “I love when a youth may initially not even speak to their mentor unless spoken to, and then a few months later, you can’t get the two of them to stop talking. It’s a great thing to see such a change in confidence.”
Recently, several DJMC mentors were recently honored at Access Living’s 2019 Annual Meeting in December: Sadaf Javed, Jenny Kane, Jae Jin Pak, and Kim Smith went above and beyond what was asked of them and have become pivotal parts of the program. “Mentoring has given me satisfaction and joy,” said Sadaf Javed, one of the honored mentors. “The enriching feeling that I have received by being there for someone without expecting anything in return cannot be described.”
DJMC is always looking for more mentors and mentees; As 2020 begins, and we think about how we want to improve our own lives, let’s pause to think about how in bettering our own life, we may be able to better the life of a young person with a disability. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, or if you’re looking for one, you can join DJMC by filling out the applications on our website or contacting the DJMC Coordinator for more information.
To all of the mentors reading this, associated with our program or not, thank you for the work you do. Because of you, young people are able to reach heights they once may have thought unreachable.