What a Difference a Year Makes: ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellows for 2019

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Emily Harris is a senior director at The Chicago Community Trust and serves as executive director for ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, an initiative to build a pipeline and network of leaders with disabilities who are deeply engaged in the civic life of the Chicago region and advancing in their careers. Here she reflects on the achievements of the initiative’s Leadership Institute, and shares exciting news for the year ahead.

During the past twelve months, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership has made major strides towards realizing our vision that people with disabilities will lead with power and influence for full participation and equal opportunity.

Today we congratulate 17 new Fellows of the 2019 Leadership Institute, as well as new participants in our 96-Member Network, including 18 graduating Fellows and 4 newly-invited established leaders with disabilities. Since we started in late 2015, we have counted more than 100 civic advancements among our members as they join task forces, committees and boards and advance in their careers.

I’d like to share a few stories to give you a taste of our success this year and a taste of what the future holds:


Disability, Power and Influence

2018 Fellow Azeema Akram, Transportation Counsel for the Illinois Commerce Commission—who received a promotion at work this year—led a group of her fellow Fellows in planning a session on disability and the 2020 Census for our first-ever Disability, Power and Influence symposium, which was made possible thanks to the generosity of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Akram and other Members will now serve on a new committee to ensure a complete census count of individuals with disabilities in Illinois convened by Advancing Leadership Co-Chair Karen Tamley and Member Daisy Feidt. And while this group works to ensure that disability voices are counted, another outcome of the symposium was a working group collaborating to create a toolkit aimed at helping aspiring and existing public officials to engage people with disabilities in campaigns.

And, moving forward, Akram joins other leaders bringing deep knowledge of government to support our new Public Service Leadership program that will focus on advancing people with disabilities to State and local Boards, Commissions and career positions.

Group photo of 30 people lined up together, smiling
On December 6, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership announced its class of 17 Fellows for 2019. The event also welcomed the graduating 2018 Fellows and four newly-invited established leaders to the Leadership Institute’s Member Network, comprising 96 diverse leaders with disabilities.


Board Leadership

2018 Fellow Jim Ferg Cadima, along with 2017 Fellow Bridget Hayman are new members of the Board of Directors of Free Spirit Media, a nonprofit that empowers youth of color to share their stories through media. They are two of ten Members who were appointed to nonprofit boards this year thanks to a partnership with BoardLead.

This program matches our members to nonprofit boards that welcome the diversity and professional skills that they bring. And thanks to the BoardLead program, all Members have the opportunity to attend high quality training to make them effective board members. This new offering—also thanks to the MacArthur Foundation—promises to contribute a new level of diversity of nonprofit boards in Chicago. While we know that there are tens of thousands of board members serving nonprofits, we can only count a few hundred at most who self-identify with disabilities. Advancing Leadership is on a path to promote inclusion and equity by ensuring that our members are in the boardroom.


Disability Diversity

Our members come from all walks of life, and include people with disabilities that are visible, invisible and acquired. To help ensure that our members reflect the diversity of the disability community–more than half of whom are people of color in our Chicago region–JPMorgan Chase supported extensive outreach to the south and west sides of Chicago. This included featuring 2018 Fellows like Andre Johnson, a technology entrepreneur who acquired his disability on the south side of Chicago when he survived a violent carjacking. Johnson shared his story and talked about his developing business this year in multiple venues including a Comcast Newsmakers segment and an interview on the CHIPEDIA podcast on WGN Radio. He says that the recognition he received and opportunity to speak publicly “helped me grow” as a leader.

And thanks to this outreach, not only is our 2019 Class more diverse, but JPMorgan’s initial investment gave us the support we needed to attract other foundational support—like that of the Field Foundation of Illinois which is recognizing Rosalind Moore of Teamwork Englewood as both a 2019 Fellow and a Field Leader where she will join others working to empower community in our city.

A man stands at a podium speaking into a microphone while an interpreter signs
2018 Fellow Jim Ferg Cadima shares his experience in the Fellowship, which included joining the board of directors of Free Spirit Media. Cadima was one of ten Members appointed to nonprofit boards this year, thanks in part to a partnership with the BoardLead program that matches individuals with board opportunities and provides training to increase their effectiveness.


Generous Support

I’ve highlighted a few supporters, but none of this would be possible without the sustained and generous contributions of our founding partner and current home, The Chicago Community Trust, as well as our leading corporate partners Exelon and BMO Harris Bank. Also contributing are the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, BlueCrossBlueShield of Illinois, Microsoft (in kind), and a number of family foundations and individuals. Their commitment to equity for people with disabilities is evident in their support for our groundbreaking program to ensure that disability is an element of the Chicago region’s diversity fully represented at tables of power and influence.

I would also like to thank the nominators who support all of our incoming and graduating Fellows.  We are especially pleased to welcome a number of corporate employees to our mix and look forward to new opportunities to work with corporations, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the coming year.


Congratulations and Welcome

Congratulations to the 2018 Fellows on their many individual and collective accomplishments this year and to our 2019 Fellows and new members. We look forward to working together to advance leadership, expand full participation and increase equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in the Chicago region.

Introducing the ADA25 Advancing Leadership 2019 Fellows:

  • Anthony M. Abou Ezzi
    Owner and Founder, Ezzi Law
  • C. Richard Costes
    Manager, Chapter & Membership Services, Association for Corporate Growth
  • Lori Goddard
    VP, Management Director, FCB Chicago
  • Nakia J. Green
    President, Nakia J Consulting
  • Robert Green
    Peer Health Navigator, University of Illinois Outpatient Therapy and Disability Studies
  • Nicole Kelly
    Marketing Coordinator, Keno Kozie
  • Abdul Hakim Khan
    Measurement and Verification Services Manager, Honeywell
  • Jason Lehmann
    QA Analyst, Aspiritech
  • Shannon Maher
    Recruiting Programs Specialist, Exelon
  • Rosalind Moore
    Director of Special Programs, Teamwork Englewood
  • Anne Nash
    Program Manager, Google
  • Christea Parent
    Studio Coordinator/Administrative Assistant, The Arts of Life
  • Christophe Quancard
    Manager, Deloitte
  • Art Sims
    Executive Producer and Radio Talk Show Host
  • Rebecca Staley
    Market Performance & Strategy Consultant, Health Care Service Corporation
  • Sandy Tiania
    Cost Accountant III, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
  • Molly Wiesman
    Administrative Assistant, Peters & Associates