Welcoming the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellows of 2018

“Harness your passion, affirm your commitments, celebrate your diversity+strive for inclusion.” Congrats #ADA25 2018 Fellows! Tweet This

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Today we are pleased to welcome 20 outstanding 2018 Fellows to the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Institute. This 2018 class joins a network of more than 90 members with disabilities from all walks of life who are passionate change agents for the Chicago region.

Now in our third year, we are delighted by the level of talent, expertise and passion of all of our Fellows who will push to accomplish our vision: that people with disabilities will lead with power and influence for full participation and equal opportunity.

Disability is a natural part of the human experience. Using the broad definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, one in five Americans—more than 56.7 million people—have a disability: some of which are visible and many of which, like learning and mental health disabilities, are non-apparent.

But although people with disabilities are our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, family and friends, they rarely play a visible leadership role at tables of power and influence in Chicago.

“Although people with disabilities are our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, family and friends, they rarely play a visible leadership role at tables of power and influence in Chicago.”

For the past three years, it’s been my honor to work with passionate leaders to start to change this imbalance, and add the missing dimension of diversity to Chicago’s civic landscape by initiating and incubating ADA 25 Advancing Leadership.

We look forward to seeing their personal leadership plans develop and to helping them to connect to leadership opportunities in the future.


Introducing the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership 2018 Fellows:

  • Azeema Akram
    Legal & Policy Advisor, Illinois Commerce Commission
  • Emily Blum
    Director of Marketing and Communications, Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Liz Davis
    Front End Web Designer, Quikorder
  • James Ferg-Cadima
    Associate General Counsel, Public Safety, City of Chicago Office of Inspector General
  • Valerie Gilles
    Manager, Strategy and Management Consulting, KPMG
  • Andre Johnson
    Founder and CEO, LiveEquipd
  • Evelyn Keolian
    Children’s Librarian, Chicago Public Library
  • Christina McGleam
    Assistant to the Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
  • Angel Miles
    Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Carlos Navarro
    Community Leader
  • Manasseh Nuwagaba
    Peer Support Specialist, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center
  • William O’Connor
    Information and Referral Specialist, AbilityLinks
  • Joyce Otuwa
    Staff Attorney, Equip for Equality
  • Courtney Sass
    Student Aide, British International School of Chicago
  • Grishma Shah
    Mass Media Consultant and Artist
  • Ather Sharif
    Software Engineer, Comcast
  • William Sitter
    Core Recruiting Coordinator, People Scout
  • Jewel Ware
    Owner, Jewels of Success
  • Andrew Webb
    Equal Justice Works Fellow and Attorney, Equip for Equality
  • Bryen Yunashko
    Owner, Access 256 Productions

Gary Beringer, Principal at Beringer & Associates and a member of the inaugural Advancing Leadership Fellowship class, shared his advice for the new Fellowship class:

“[We] congratulate you on being competitively selected for your potential as leaders. Look forward to the challenges and take advantage of immersing yourselves in a very hard but extremely transforming experience. It is well worth the effort it will take. Harness your passion, affirm your commitments, celebrate your diversity and strive for inclusion.”


Advancing Leadership is growing thanks to the continued investment of donors led by The Chicago Community Trust and Exelon as well as BMO Harris, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Allstate Insurance Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Hyatt Hotels Foundation and Microsoft.