Celebrate PYD’s Impact for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Collage of Kianna, Rashad, Matthew, Kelsy, Ellis, and Steph

As we honor and recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) this October, join us in celebrating the impact we’ve made on our youth who have participated in our programs in career, internship, and professional settings.

With your support, we can continue to drive disability inclusion in the workplace and help even more youths to achieve their career goals.


Name: Kianna Jones
Age: 16
Location: Aurora, CO
Program: Career Readiness Academy
Partner Organization: City of Aurora
Year Participated in PYD: 2022

After being referred to PYD by a family member, Kianna joined our Career Readiness program and soon after, began her career as a part-time Naturalist with the City of Aurora. Career Readiness provided her with the necessary skills to work with kids and diverse groups of people, along with working with others. Kianna believes that her patience allowed her to excel in her role, and she really enjoyed getting to know all of the kids she worked with, whether it was through indoor or outdoor activities.

When asked what advice she would give to employers about hiring people with disabilities, she explained the importance of educating yourself on the disability the employee has to help make them feel more comfortable and make it possible for them to adapt to their job, therefore giving them the skills they need to succeed.

Kianna’s advice for anyone with a disability who has a career goal they’d like to achieve is, “Don’t let the road blocks stop you from achieving your set goals. There’s already a stigma against people with disabilities, but by showing them how dedicated you are to better yourself and work as a team, you are setting yourself up for greatness.”

Way to go, Kianna!


Name: Rashad Williams
Age: 16
Location: Aurora, CO
Program: Career Readiness Academy
Partner Organization: City of Aurora | Aurora Youth Options
Year Participated in PYD: 2022

As a part-time Naturalist with the City of Aurora’s Aurora Youth Options (AYO) program, Rashad’s uncle was able to help him land this gig. Rashad felt that the preparation that our Career Readiness program gave him for his interview for the position was particularly helpful, guiding him in the right direction to know what to say and which questions to ask. His biggest strength is working with kids, which meant that he was a great fit for this role, as it required him to constantly work with others.

When asked what advice he would give to employers about hiring people with disabilities and to people with disabilities who want to reach certain career goals, his advice was simple but spot on: “Give them a chance and never stop.”

Great work, Rashad!


Name: Matthew Rego
Age: 20
Location: Medford, MA
Program: Career Readiness Intern
Partner Organization: PYD
Year Participated in PYD: 2022

As a student of the Milestones Day School in Waltham, MA, Matthew discovered our Career Readiness program and joined our organization as an intern. His most prominent strength is being able to effectively communicate with others via email and the PYD platform, which is crucial for building relationships in the workplace. Additionally, Matthew excels at working both independently and with others, and depending on the project and tasks at hand, having that flexibility is important.

When it comes to employers hiring people with disabilities, Matthew stresses not to judge a book by its cover, as you can find some great people. His advice for any person with a disability who wants to achieve a specific career goal is, “Don’t get overwhelmed by too much work. You will get through it.”

Bravo, Matthew!


Name: Kelsy Hillesheim
Age: 27
Location: Boston, MA
Program: Young Leaders Rising (YLR)
Year(s) Participated in PYD: 2022

One of our favorite parts about the work we do is having the opportunity to work with multiple family members! Kelsy discovered YLR from her sister Sarah, who was a fellow with us before. Her favorite part about the program was getting the opportunity to meet peers and learn from each other, which ties in well with her strength of being fully present with the people she’s with.

Advice she would give to others who are working with people with disabilities is to give them a chance and to not assume what they can or cannot do on the basis of disability; have a conversation instead. Additionally, when asked the advice she would give to a person with a disability who has a goal they want to reach, she shared, “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by big goals sometimes. Talk to people in your life who are there to support you and try to break these big goals into smaller goals that will help you move towards your big goal.”

Awesome job, Kelsy!

Ellis Sardorian

Name: Ellis Sardorian
Age: 25
Location: Maryland
Program: National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) Fellow
Year(s) Participated in PYD: 2021-2022

After researching what was helpful for other people with disabilities, Ellis learned that fellowships were largely beneficial, which led them to discovering the NDMC fellowship and applying. During the fellowship, Ellis frequently conducted interviews, which they feel is a really helpful skill to have in their current career as an Education & Program Assistant at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN). As they shared, “In my current role now I’m managing and reaching out to people. I learned about having grace and flexibility; learning how to bridge the community practice with professionalism and that the two could co-exist. It gave me permission to bring it into professional practice.”

People often compliment Ellis on their organization, which they find funny because they don’t view themselves as organized! It’s a great reminder that something we view as a weakness may be seen as a strength to others. Additionally, Ellis noted that their best strength is their ability to learn, grow, and adapt.

Their favorite part about being an NDMC fellow was the active mentorship they received. Ellis explained, “Piper became a mentor to me, and we built up a friendship and that for me was incredible because one, I, like many disabled youth, grew up not being enough in the right way—but every person is enough. But we are not always right for every situation and that becomes a chip on your shoulder. I’ve only been in school for 4 years twice in my life–once after 5 years old. The only time I’ve attended school consistently through all of the grade schools were pre-K and higher Ed because it was not accessible education. I say this as someone who is privileged (white, upper middle class family) but school had been inaccessible. This was a TRULY accessible experience and those are very, very rare. Piper was incredibly accommodating and also it was one somebody believed in me. Also, it made me realize that I can do this! Being able to connect and learn. Y’all said, hey you can do whatever research project you want—and we will pay you to learn. Really a wonderful experience in terms of actually being able to be both and to be trans as well, I wasn’t open with myself at the very beginning and that is something I stepped into and grew into over the term of mentorship. I’d sing Piper’s praises to the moon and back, it would not have been the same without them–very, very grateful.”

We’re blown away by Ellis’ thoughts about their experience. For their advice for hiring people with disabilities, Ellis shared, “I have found that working with people who can be flexible and working with different sorts of people can be helpful. I have had great privilege with a lot of people putting time and energy into helping develop my ability to be professional. I have been taught how to walk the walk; people have been able to perceive me as someone who is actually walking the walk. I don’t always fit in, so I’ve been able to take part in diversity opportunities. A lot of bad experiences and you slowly learn skills and tricks to make it a good experience. The things that have worked for me have worked because of my privilege.”

When asked what Ellis would recommend for people who want to partake in a certain career, they said, “The best advice I can give is to keep asking yourself questions. How do you get yourself to a space where you can learn, you can grow, you can be safe. In that safety, how do you make sure that there is growth and healing in that—-but those are personal questions.”

Well done, Ellis!

Steph Brown

Name: Steph Brown
Age: 22
Location: Cambridge, MA
Programs: Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) Peer Leader and Young Leaders Rising (YLR) Fellow
Year(s) Participated in PYD: 2022

We love when our participants join in on not only one program but two! Steph participated in YLF and YLR after finding out about them from the Director of Perkins School for the Blind’s Compass Program. She felt that the programs were great for refreshers on self-advocacy and accessibility of technology in the workplace, and she loved the diversity of the speakers. As she shared, “It gets hard because I feel bad saying, ‘No, this doesn’t work,’ but the truth is, it just doesn’t.” Being comfortable with advocating for yourself is crucial.

Steph’s experiences have made her very open-minded, as it’s important to be open to different backgrounds and viewpoints. For any employer who is looking to hire people with disabilities, Steph suggested, “Ask a lot of questions and keep communication lines open. You can miss a lot if you just judge a book by its cover. Just ask questions.”

For any person with a disability who has a certain career goal they’d like to reach, Steph explained, “No goal is too lofty if you are willing to put in the work for it. It does take work and it does take effort—I truly believe that you can do whatever it is that you want to do even if you do it a little differently.”

Hurray, Steph!

Learn more about our Career Readiness program and Career Readiness Academy and the positive impact they have on our participants. Be sure to enter our raffle from now through October 31, 2022 for the chance to win $10,000, where all proceeds will benefit the work that we do in driving disability inclusion in the workplace.