Welcoming New Board Member Ann Wai-Yee Kwong

My personal experience with self-advocacy coupled with my professional passion around diversity and inclusion further solidified my aspiration in ending the vicious cycle of low expectations and lack of achievement around the disability community and assist students with disabilities in reaching their fullest potential while realizing their vision as I continue on my personal journey pursuing a Ph.D. in Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. Engaging with employers on best practices to better source and attract young talent with disabilities, shifting the culture around disability, and influencing policy can culminate in maximum impact and innovative solutions.

I recognize the need for efforts to change the negative climate of low expectations toward students with disabilities. I observed that many students who are placed in special education have low self-esteem and lack confidence, resulting in the vicious cycle of low societal expectations in my roles as Transition Program Specialist at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired as well as research consultant and advisory committee member for both nonprofits and government agencies; this is tightly linked to expectations placed upon the student from their family, teachers, and the broader society. Subsequently, several colleagues and I sprang into action and created “Survive or Thrive (SOT)”, an experienced-based mentoring program and support group by and for youth with disabilities and their families. During my leisure time, I enjoy organizing workshops to promote access and distribute information and serving as a mentor which allows youth with disabilities to have a guide they can turn to for advice in navigating post-high school options.

I hope to expand my work with students and families and to use my experience as an avenue for identification of effective educational practices and eventual policy adjustments. I am eager to passionately commit to engaging in critical research with disadvantaged transition age youth and direct future policy reforms to support family involvement and incorporate culturally responsive strategies as part of workforce development. It is an honor and pleasure to be invited to join the PolicyWorks Board and contribute my experience as well as learn from other members; I look forward to expanding the mission and promoting the rights of individuals with disabilities to live and contribute in their counties together!