There have been many people who have helped me on my path to advocacy; including my family, school members, friends, and a very important mentor in advocacy, David Zwyer!
I first met David in my early thirties when I became involved with the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. David was a tall man and very well-spoken. I would always bump into David when I was attending conferences and meetings on advocacy. He’s a walking index of information and his presence was requested everywhere.
When I was selected to be on the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council back in 2004, David held the position of Executive Director for the council. Although I was brand new to the council, I could tell by the way David expressed himself that he was all about helping people with disabilities achieve their independence.
After a few years on the council, David presented me with the opportunity to sit in on a few National Developmental Disabilities Council Board of Directors meetings. His term was coming to an end so he wanted to mentor me on the functioning of the organization; in hopes that I would be able to fill his seat on the board.
When I attended my first board meeting in Washington, DC, I was overwhelmed. Not only was I the only person on the board with a visible physical disability but I was the only one of color. The information was extremely in-depth; I had a heck of time keeping up with all the acronyms board members kept throwing around. David could tell that I was feeling frustrated, but assured me that if I kept attending meetings and did my homework, I would catch on.
Turned out David was right. Not only was I elected as a member to the national council, but I ended up becoming vice chair as well. Being on the national board is just what I needed to strengthen my voice!
I met many amazing people through David. I also learned the ropes through his mentorship. David helped me to become more confident in myself and in my capabilities.
I later found out David was a lawyer by trade which explained why he is so well-spoken. Along with his many professional skills, he also assisted families on setting up special trusts for their love ones with disabilities.
I now sit and have sat on many boards, councils and commissions that serve people with disabilities. David challenged me to become a leader and I’m so glad he did. He helped me enhance my passion of advocacy and I’m actually good at it.
I would like to thank David for being a great influence in my life and for believing in my capabilities. I am soaring in my advocacy efforts because of him! Thanks for throwing me to the wind so I can fly David. I salute you.