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On April 1, 30 dedicated disability advocates completed the Texas Partners in Policymaking program. Over the course of seven months, class members took part in thought-provoking presentations, enriching assignments, and in-depth conversations on disability rights, issues, and legislation. By taking part in this advanced leadership and advocacy training program, participants leave the program equipped to create positive change at the local, state, and federal levels and take on leadership roles in their communities. We extend our congratulations to the following graduates and wish them well on their future endeavors:

  • Amanda Jackson, Plano
  • Beverly Hamilton, Austin
  • Brianna Arnett, Tyler
  • Bridgette Paul, McKinney
  • Carrie Mamantov, Grapevine
  • Claudia Betancourt, Katy
  • Courtney Page, Grapevine
  • Cindy Decker, Dripping Springs
  • David Chapple, Austin
  • Demetrice Smith, Duncanville
  • Denay Hooks, Lubbock
  • Elizabeth Ferry, Austin
  • Elizabeth Spear, Austin
  • Ginnie Muller, Houston
  • Jason Jones, Houston
  • Jessamyn Putnam, Spicewood
  • Jessica Rothe, Liberty Hill
  • JC Chen, Katy
  • Kareen Thornock, Cleveland
  • Kristen Gooch, Austin
  • Laurie Williams George, Fort Worth
  • Marissa Ballesteros, Laredo
  • Meg Wallace, Waco
  • Melissa Hudson, Mission
  • Molly Saenz, El Paso
  • Nicole Agado, Alvarado
  • Robert Miller, Round Rock
  • Shana Halvorsen, Houston
  • Tiffany Angus, Longview
  • Tonya McLouth, McKinney

You can learn more about each participant, and what they achieved while participating in Partners, in the Graduates section of our website.

Progressive Actions towards Positive Outcomes

Throughout their time in the program, Partners participants worked diligently on a disability-related capstone project addressing a need in the community, gap in the system, or exploring potential improvements to public policy. Now equipped with advanced knowledge, leadership skills, and advocacy tools, graduates are tasked with bringing their capstone projects to fruition. The class of 2023 capstone projects covered a wide range of topics such as:

  • waiver program improvements,
  • education,
  • building community capacities and supports,
  • accessibility and inclusion initiatives,
  • training programs,
  • advocacy through digital media,
  • and peer support.

Below are a few examples of the extraordinary work done this year by the Partners class of 2023.

Parent with Merit: Addressing the Information Gap in Diagnosis, Early Intervention and Public Education

Laurie Williams George is creating simple, easy-to-read, one-pagers designed to guide parents through the process of testing, diagnosis, and finding early childhood intervention resources. George partnered with Best Place for Kids to utilize their Parent Pass app and share these resources on a mass scale. Parent Pass is an app that delivers targeted information to parents in Tarrant County based on their family profile. Upon completion of each stage in the process, parents receive digital “merit badges” to symbolize their progress in understanding how to best serve their child’s developmental needs.

A Guide to Help Educate Children about Inclusion

Author Denay Hooks published a tool to be used by educators, parents, and advocates on how to talk to children about individuals with disabilities. Hooks has written a book, sample scripts, worksheets, comprehension questions, and supplemental activities to educate children about disabilities and foster inclusion at school and in the community.  Hooks also facilitated sessions using these materials at Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University to educate future teachers on how to discuss and support inclusion in the classroom.

Leap Into Sight Newly Blind Support Group

With hopes to use his lived experience to mentor others, Jason Jones has established a peer support group for individuals who are newly blind/visually impaired within the last 6 months to a year. The goal is to foster a safe space for newly blind/visually impaired individuals to ask for guidance and advice from other individuals who are blind/visually impaired. Together they will discuss topics such as assistive tech, transportation, and community supports to help the group’s “mentees” navigate this life transition. The group officially launched in March 2023, and they are eager to grow their membership.

Partners Alumni Program

The Partners Alumni Program welcomes the recent graduates of the class of 2023. Joining the Partners Alumni leadership ranks, recent graduate Carrie Mamantov was elected to serve as the Class Representative for the class of 2023. Mamantov will act as a leader, connector, and resource to her fellow cohort members as they navigate their advocacy journeys beyond graduation.

Through the Partners Alumni Program, recent graduates will be able to access exclusive advocacy, networking, and training opportunities to put their knowledge into practice and further refine their skills. As alumni, they begin their legacy of lifelong leadership and advocacy alongside our other 780+ Texas Partners in Policymaking graduates. To learn about the Partners Alumni Program, visit the alumni program section of our website.

Texas Partners in Policymaking is coordinated by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities.