Peer MentoringWorks Community of Practice

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the inaugural Peer MentoringWorks Community of Practice (PMW CoP) meeting. This first of its kind peer mentoring community of practitioners represents national advocacy organizations, State VR Administrators, Subject Matter Experts from the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance (WINTAC), Community Rehabilitation Providers, University Disability Student Services Centers, Peer Mentoring Coordinators, and Peer Mentors. 

In this first PMW CoP meeting, we heard from:

  • Steve Allen, President of PolicyWorks, covered the background and creation of Peer MentoringWorks and the vision for the Community of Practice.
  • Christine Johnson, Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center, Senior Research Associate, George Washington University, discussed Peer Mentoring as an approved Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS). Learn more.
  • Paul Hippolitus, UC Berkeley, presented on his research, publication and tools on “Employment Empowerment.”  Learn more
  • Wyn Kumar, Peer Mentor with Work Opportunities Unlimited, shared the impact of peer mentoring through a story about her work with a student mentee. Learn more about this Florida-based peer mentoring program via this video.
  • Derek Shields, Director of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC), discussed this national network of organizations leveraging mentoring models and programs to improve disability inclusion in education, employment and community.

We greatly appreciate your support and participation in this first meeting. As we move forward, we will be seeking input, guidance and feedback from the PMW CoP members to support the provision of peer mentoring to youth and students with disabilities.  

We would greatly appreciate your feedback from this meeting. Please complete our Feedback Form.

Please also register to join us for our next PMW CoP meeting on September 23, 2020 at 1:00-2:00 pm ET / 10:00-11:00am PT! We also encourage you to share the registration link with your colleagues who are interested in growing peer mentoring models and programs.

Check out to get a sense of the training and resource hub for this new PMW CoP.
If you have a specific question, please contact Steve Allen of PolicyWorks at

Remembering PolicyWorks’ Barbara Butz Through the Inclusion Lens of Lights! Camera! Access!

Lights! Camera! Access! (LCA) celebrates the life, leadership, and legacy of PolicyWorks Founder and President, Barbara Butz, who will forever be etched in our hearts and memories as a treasured architect and leader of LCA. Her passion was supporting generations of youth with disabilities, and her calling was evangelizing peer mentoring. Barbara’s relentless pursuit of disability equity pushed all of us harder and stronger, together–to believe in ourselves, and each other–to always do our best work…and to have fun

Together, Barbara and Steven Allen developed the core LCA Career Exploration Summit workshop, Self-Disclosure: Leveraging Your Disability to Sharpen Your Competitive Edge, based on PolicyWorks’ critically-acclaimed Peer Mentoring model. The successful model was first developed with the Kessler Foundation-funded College to Careers (C2C) initiative in collaboration with Caren Sax, Director San Diego State University (SDSU) Interwork Institute, based on curriculum designed by Paul Hippolitus at the University of California, Berkeley. 

This LCA workshop is a companion session to the No One Taught Me How to Network workshop created by PolicyWorks friend Derek Shields, Director of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC). These two LCA workshops, along with resume review, speed interviews, flash mentoring and two panels, How to Make it in the Media, curated and moderated by Anna Pakman, and the Deaf & Disability Narrative Imperative, built the foundation of the LCA Career Exploration Regional Summits. These events are now expanding to LCA Online Mentoring Circles, designed by Derek to provide professional scaffolding for select LCA alumni who are DOR job seekers, and LCA Online Gallery, being created by LCA Core Team member, Jd Michaels to showcase the talents of LCA participants.

Barbara was a connector, ambassador, mentor and fierce advocate of inclusion. She was the sister, mom, aunt and grandmother we never had but secretly wished for. With Barbara, you knew you were loved as “family” by choice. She understood us, believed in us (even when we did not yet believe in ourselves) and encouraged us to strive for more, to bring our whole self to every task with disability power and pride.

Through her extensive network, she enriched and empowered LCA mentors and mentees alike to believe in their dreams and each other. She introduced LCA to Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films; Caren Sax’s Interwork Institute at SDSU (co-hosts of LCA San Diego, with Options for All); and Michael Greenberg, who is now spearheading LCA Baltimore to be convened this Fall – and dedicated to the memory of Barbara. PolicyWorks’ leadership also provided seed funding to bring the concept of NDMC to full fruition.   

Her greatest joy was bringing together programs and colleagues and then calling those sacred collaborations: a synchronistic bounce. She would often say, “Love it when a plan comes together.” We all are the recipients of Barbara’s love and beneficiaries of her guidance. LCA is an improved and more effective program thanks to Barbara.

While Barbara will not physically be moving forward with us, her spirit travels with LCA to NYC on April 1, 2020, hosted by ReelAbilities NYC Film Festival, and sponsored by the Kessler Foundation, when we announce the first two recipients of the Barbara Butz Memorial Mentoring Award, an honor envisioned by NDMC and made possible by PolicyWorks and Kessler Foundation.  If you or someone you know is an aspiring media professional, filmmaker or storyteller with a disability, hope you will apply at this link: Deadline for LCA NYC applications is Monday, March 9th at 8 pm ET. 

Barbara’s spirit will also be with us at LCA San Diego on June 7, 2020 for Veterans with Disabilities, hosted by Options for All in collaboration with SDSU’s Interwork Institute; at LCA Baltimore in September 2020, in collaboration with Loyola University Maryland and Towson; at LCA Hollywood in Fall 2020 in collaboration with ReelAbilities Los Angeles Film Festival; at LCA Boston, sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation; LCA Seattle; and LCA Sacramento, hosted by Access Sacramento in collaboration with YO! Disabled & Proud.

The LCA Collaborative operates with three objectives:

  • Increase employment of people with disabilities in front of, and behind the camera/keyboard in all forms of media – TV, movies, advertising, news, theatre and interactive, including video games;
  • Improve disability portrayals across genres and delivery platform; and
  • Ensure access to media with captions and audio descriptions.

We love you Barbara, miss you and will never forget you. Your legacy lives on through good works like the LCA Collaborative, PolicyWorks, and the lessons you taught us that we now pay forward. Lead On – and rest in power. 

Susan M. Daniels Hall of Fame Class of 2019

On International Mentoring Day, January 17, 2020, the Class of 2019–32 individuals and one organization–was inducted into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame for their mentoring excellence and impact regarding in disability inclusion. 

The namesake of this award, Susan M. Daniels, was a force of nature. She achieved enormous success in creating a significant impact as a mentor to many individuals with disabilities. The Susan M. Daniels Disability Hall of Fame was not only established to honor her but those who are continuing her legacy and also making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

In 2015, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, the National Disability Mentoring Coalition named the first twenty-five25 inductees into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. These twenty-five outstanding mentors were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to impacting and improving the lives of people with disabilities.

The theme throughout the Class of 2019 ceremony was of mentoring being a two-way relationship; the mentor not only passes on wisdom and advice to the mentee but the mentor learns and grows through this symbiotic reciprocal relationship. When people with disabilities are mentored, it not only benefits the disability community, but the entire community as a whole. Susan dedicated her life to being a mentor and teaching others to do the same in hopes of creating a positive impact on society. Watch the Ceremony on YouTube.

During the ceremony, Barbara Butz, an inductee of the Class of 2018 who recently passed away, was honored. John Kemp, President & CEO of The Viscardi Center, remembered Barbara’s life-long career and dedication to supporting young people with disabilities in education, employment, and community inclusion. John describeds Barbara as an incredible mentor who poured her life into mentees in order to help them grow. As the president of PolicyWorks, she grew this peer mentorship program to national status. She was described as a gentle goddess and fierce warrior. Everyone who encountered her loved working with her but she also had a talent for making things happen. 

Elizabeth Jennings, a former colleague and mentee of Barbara’s, was inducted as one of the members of the Class of 2019. Elizabeth is the acting Executive Director for the National Disability Institute and has great knowledge of financial literacy. Her flexibility and humility allow her to mentor with compassion and great understanding. Elizabeth is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities by ensuring full participation in society via implementing economic advancements into daily activities and resources.

Daman Wandke, another inductee into the Class of 2019, was a mentee of Barbara’s as well. Daman, the CEO and Founder of AbiliTrek, is a life-long disability advocate. He is a graduate of Western Washington University with a master’s in business administration. Along with running AbiliTrek, Daman has spoken at many events, teaches disability studies at his alma mater and enjoys traveling and being on the water. Daman attributes his success to all the incredible mentors in his life and he desires to be the same kind of mentor they have been to him.

Mentoring is incredibly important to the empowerment of the disability community. We at PolicyWorks are grateful for the National Disability Mentoring Coalition in their recognition of the mentors that have impacted so many lives. We are honored that people like Barbara, Elizabeth, and Daman, along with others in the past, were recognized for their mentorship. Peer mentoring works!

A Tribute to Barbara

PolicyWorks is deeply saddened by the passing of PolicyWorks President, Barbara Butz this past November. Barbara was a founding member of PolicyWorks and she grew the PolicyWorks’ peer mentorship program into a national force. She poured her time and energy into not only PolicyWorks as an organization but into the lives of the people she served. 

“As a person, Barbara was both an impassioned advocate and a caring colleague. She inspired people of all ages — particularly young individuals with disabilities seeking to find their way in school, work, and giving back,” expresses Rayna Aylward, a long-time PolicyWorks board member. Rayna met Barbara through their beloved mutual friend and mentor Susan Daniels. Rayna explains that Barbara picked up the torch when Susan passed away, and she carried it proudly and powerfully in leading PolicyWorks through years of growth and impact. Rayna continues that “[She was] so blessed to have had both Susan and Barbara as friends and guides.  Now let us pick up that torch and lead on!”

Barbara, a Class of 2018 inductee of the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, had a long history of working in disability advocacy and policy. Barbara was an incredible mentor who poured her life into mentees in order to help them grow. Another board member, Nancy Starnes, shares how “Barbara was tireless in her pursuit of new outcomes for young people with disabilities.  Inspired by our colleague, Susan Daniel’s memory, Barbara set about moving current traditional thinking beyond job opportunities–any job–to meaningful careers as a new and innovative goal. Her success has inspired each of us to re-double our efforts, now in her memory, to continue that effort.” 

Barbara had a rich history of advocacy work. In 1999, Barbara founded The Capstone Consulting Group, Inc. and accumulated more than 40 years of experience in employment and training workforce development at the federal, state and local levels. She focused her consulting practice on these issues as well as health care access and Social Security policy development. Barbara’s long list of successes accumulated through her many roles, including Assistant Secretary for Labor and Employment Security in Florida, Executive Director of a non-profit employment and training organization, Director of Employment Programs for an urban Community Action Program, and Program Supervisor for Vocational Technical and Adult Education programs for a public-school district.

Barbara has left us with an incredible legacy that will continue to inspire many to follow her example. “She was a true leader and passionate advocate from whom we can all learn,” board member Kristen Willard recalls. “Barbara loved her work but even more dearly her community, her friends and her animals. She will be dearly missed.”

A Message from our New President

Dear PolicyWorks family,

I will start my first letter as the President of PolicyWorks wishing everyone a prosperous and fulfilling 2020.  2019 was a year of great challenge and transition for PolicyWorks as our leader and President Barbara A. Butz transitioned her life’s work and passion to join PolicyWorks co-founder Susan M. Daniels as PolicyWorks’ mentoring angel team. 

Nine years ago, Susan, Barbara and Jeanne Argoff founded PolicyWorks to develop and apply innovative practices to make policy work for people with disabilities.  At the time, I was just getting my toes wet in the disability rights and advocacy community as ‘VP of logistics and Support’ with Daniels & Associates, a title bestowed by Susan and Barbara that meant nothing more than first, I was part of the team and second, my job was to support them in every way including schlepping the luggage.   I was definitely down for the job.  

Today, I am honored and humbled to continue their legacy as President of PolicyWorks.  A legacy that taught me collaboration “works” and passion and intention are the means to the end and:

A headshot of Susan and Barbara. Susan has her head resting on Barbara's right shoulder while Barbara has her head resting on the left side of Susan's head. They both have their eyes closed and Barbara has a small smile on her face.
Susan and Barbara

‘To Be of Use’…meant to ‘jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows’, and to ‘submerge in the task was to go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along…in a common rhythm when the food must come in or the fire be put out.’ From Marge Percy, “To Be of Use”. 

PolicyWorks continues to collaborate with our partners to support projects and initiatives that include mentoring and professional development as a means to independence through employment for youth and students with disabilities.   These projects and initiatives include:  The Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) and its’ Workforce Innovation Peer Mentoring Pilot Projects (PM WIPPs); Lights! Camera! Access!; the continued support of the CareerACCESS policy initiative; Peer MentoringWorks, a platform of tools, training and certification for peer mentors of students with disabilities; building on the Kessler’s Foundations C2C (College to Careers) projects in California and Florida, and as a founding funder and full participant in the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) and the Susan M. Daniels Hall of Fame. 

Standing on the shoulders of humble giants, I see how far we have come and the path ahead.   Join Us, the PolicyWorks mentoring angels and our collaborative partners as we lead forward toward our shared passion head to head, shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

Thanks to each and all who have offered up and continue to share your thoughts, prayers and support. 


Steven Allen's signature

Steven Allen, President of PolicyWorks

The WINTAC Project–Peer Mentoring Rolling Out to Four New States

The WINTAC Peer Mentoring Pilot Project continues to expand. The initial three states–Florida, Alaska, and Mississippi–have served over 200 young people with disabilities.

Based on this success, we are expanding the services to four new states–Maine, Virginia, Maryland and Arkansas.

This expansion will include work in both general and blind state vocational rehabilitation agencies with partners include, the school system, community service providers and the National Federation of the Blind.