ALEX PEREZ-GARCIA

Alex Perez-Garcia is a nonprofit leader, fundraising and impact professional, and mental health and disability rights advocate.

As Associate Director of Development and Communications at ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, Alex is growing this startup nonprofit organization through strategic high-quality fundraising, community outreach, and internal and external content management. Previously, Alex was a Program Associate at The Chicago Community Trust, where she managed several projects related to the Trust’s commitment to racial equity, disability inclusion, and strategic growth for diverse populations and disinvested neighborhoods. In her tenure at the Trust, she was integral to the incubation and launch of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, the only leadership program in the nation that connects leaders with disabilities with civic engagement opportunities. Alex started at the Trust through the University of Chicago Public Interest Program (UCPIP), now the Kimpton Fellows program, a competitive one-year fellowship opportunity for graduates interested in launching their career in the public sector at high-impact organizations.

Alex also served as Treasurer and Senior Advisor for local Democratic candidate Robert Emmons Jr. Inspired by the progressive energy of 2018, Alex spearheaded the campaign’s fundraising efforts by championing individual contributions. This campaign strategy has been nationally ranked–outraising the incumbent 100x in individual contributions–and featured in local and national news publications such as The Intercept, HuffPost, and Chicago Tribune.

As an inaugural member of The Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps, Alex founded The Beautiful You Project, aimed at creating an online community around mental health fueled by young voices of color. In the first month launched, the blog, which featured lived experiences of mental illness including her own, was read by thousands across the country. Because of her work, she was selected as a featured speaker during the 2018 Obama Foundation Summit. She has served as an Ambassador for the Obama Foundation and Chicago200. She serves in leadership on the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Young Women’s Giving Council. In 2019, she was awarded the Young Alumna Award by her high school alma mater. She is a 2020 ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellow. Alex graduated with honors from UChicago with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Policy.

She strongly believes in the power of personal narrative, civic engagement, and working together to infuse equity in our systems.

KAREN SHELEY

SUHAIL TARIQ

Suhail Tariq is passionate about helping people with visible and invisible disabilities from all walks of life. Advocacy is very important to him as too many times he has seen people without anyone to speak up for them. Suhail objective is to make sure that people with disabilities have equality in the workplace. Suhail is physically disabled and has Juvenile ALS/Lou Gehrig’s along with Spastic Paraplegia.

EUGENE SKONICKI

Gene Skonicki is a graduate of Georgetown Law where he co-founded a group for law students with disabilities. He has clerked for three federal judges and currently serves as a permanent law clerk to a federal judge in Chicago. Before law school, Gene was the CTO of a successful technology start-up.

WHITNEY HILL

Whitney Hill’s vision is supported by both her passion for advocacy and personal background of being a part of the disability community. Her training as a Universal Designer has fostered her devotion to the community. Her dedicated work at the Blind Service Association, the Institute For Human-Centered Design/New England ADA Center, has honed her skills. Whitney is currently serving as an elected member on the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) ADA Advisory Committee, is Chair for the CTA Wayfinding Subcommittee, and is the Founder & Director of SPORK!.

DEBORAH DECKER

Deb Decker is an Assistant General Counsel at Commonwealth Edison Company. Deb avidly supports enhancing diversity and inclusion in business and works on various initiatives supporting that goal. She is a graduate of North Central College (B.A. in Spanish, Psychology and Speech Communications/Theatre) and University of Wisconsin Law School (J.D.).

DERRICK DAWSON

Derrick Dawson is the Co-Program Coordinator of Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism. He began working in social justice after spending 20 years as a trainer in corporate law firms and spent a decade as a broadcaster and journalist in the United States Navy where he served on ships in the Pacific.

C. RICHARD COSTES

As a deaf actor of color, Richard Costes leverages his trailblazing experiences in Chicago theatre through advocacy as a consultant to local theatres and non-profit arts organizations. His passion for increasing accessibility and representation is a valuable resource for many organizations, including the association he works for, ACG.

BRIANNE COLEMAN

Brianne Coleman is an administrative professional with a passion for change. As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, Brianne tirelessly advocates for victims/survivors through her public speaking and volunteer work. Brianne is the founder of Dimensions of Intersections, an upcoming nonprofit with a goal to stop the cycle of violence towards women and girls.

KEIDRA CHANEY

Keidra Chaney is a writer and communications professional focused on reproductive justice, disability justice, accessibility, and equity/inclusion. Her two-decade career includes experience in independent magazine publishing, non-profit digital strategy, and social media training. She is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).

ANN SCHOLHAMER

Ann has over 30 years of advertising experience. Previously, she was Vice President at the Brenda Borri Company where she wasthe sales partner for the US territory and developed relationship with advertising agencies, public relations firms, companies, and consultant in the national 10-second television media marketplace. Ann’s volunteer experience includes serving as President of the board of SitStayRead and Treasurer of the Women’s March Chicago.

REBECCA STALEY

Becky is the Illinois State Chairperson for In-Abled Business Resource Group at Health Care Service Corporation. In her role on the council, Becky supports the mission to champion inclusion for people with disabilities by increasing awareness and providing educational and professional development opportunities for employees. Becky also serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for L’Arche Chicago. In her full-time role as Program Manager, Becky supports the employer group line of business for specialty markets.

NICOLE KELLY

Nicole Kelly stepped into the role of public figure after winning the 2013 title of Miss Iowa and going on to compete at the 2014 Miss America Pageant. She gained attention for being one of only a few competitors to have ever competed with a physical disability. After working for a year as Miss Iowa and traveling across the country to advocate for those living with a disability, Nicole transitioned into speaking professionally. Last summer Nicole completed her master’s degree in broadcast journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Now, she is an assistant production manager at Ravenswood Studio. Ravenswood is a Chicago-based custom fabrication company driven by passionate artisans creating world-class sets, scenery, and exhibits for opera, theater, museum, and corporate clients.

ROBERT GREEN

Robert Green has worked for 3 years at the University of Illinois as a Peer Health Navigator. The program helps people with disabilities effectively advocate for themselves in order to achieve quality healthcare outcomes. Prior to this, he was the drummer for Chicago Lights for more than 10 years, writing, recording and touring with the band. He is a graduate from Loyola University in Chemistry, and the University of Chicago in Biochemistry/medicine.

ANGEL MILES

Angel received her doctorate in women’s studies at the University of Maryland College Park. After completing her postdoctoral fellowship in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she became Healthcare/Home and Community Based Services Policy Analyst at Access Living. She is responsible for monitoring disability rights developments in healthcare and home and community-based services and facilitating systems advocacy efforts through an intersectional lens.

ANDREW WEBB

Andrew Webb is a former Equal Justice Works ADA 25 Fellow, sponsored by McDermott Will and Emery. Since concluding his fellowship, Andrew has continued as a Staff Attorney at Equip For Equality, where he focuses primarily on providing education and representation to improve access to health care and related services for Illinois residents with disabilities. Andrew earned a J.D. from The University of Chicago and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

JOYCE OTUWA

Joyce Otuwa is a Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality, investigating, negotiating, and litigating social security and discrimination cases on behalf of clients. Joyce believes in public service, mentorship, and the deconstruction of exclusive ideology through education, activism, and legal advocacy. Joyce earned a J.D. and B.A. from the University of Illinois.

JAMES FERG-CADIMA

James A. Ferg-Cadima has built a public service career on shaping and enforcing civil rights protections at the federal, state, and local levels. In July 2019, Governor JB Pritzker appointed Ferg-Cadima as Chair of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission), which adjudicates claims of unlawful discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act. His appointment is awaiting confirmation before the Illinois Senate.

BRYEN YUNASHKO

Bryen Yunashko is the Owner of Access 256 Productions. Bryen is a national DeafBlind advocate and leader, and currently serves as president of the Chicagoland DeafBlind Alliance and was recently appointed to the congressionally-mandated FEMA National Advisory Committee’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems Subcommittee. Bryen attended Gallaudet University and then California State University, Northridge, studying film.

GARY ARNOLD

Gary Arnold is the Program Director for Progress Center for Independent Living. Previously, Gary worked as the Public Affairs Manager for Access Living. Gary is the co-chair of the Board of Directors for Crossroads Fund. He is the immediate past president of Little People of America, and has served on the Board of Directors for Public Narrative (previously known as the Community Media Workshop). Gary is a 2013 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. Gary earned a B.A. from Beloit College and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2018.

PATRICK MAHER

As Director of Civic Engagement at SPR, Pat Maher manages non-profit relationships within the tech sector. Pat supports the success of historically overlooked and discounted segments of the workforce – including professionals and aspiring candidates with disabilities, girls and young women, and younger candidates who lack social capital in the continually evolving technology industry. SPR’s strategic focus is supporting students through early-in-career (EIC) professionals to have the greatest impact.

AMBER SMOCK

Amber has served as Access Living’s Director of Advocacy since 2010. She is responsible for executing Access Living’s advocacy vision through policy, community organizing, and issue education, with support from across Access Living’s program departments. She guides Access Living’s strategic partnerships and significant networking efforts at the local, state, and national levels across a range of disability topics, including healthcare/home- and community-based services, housing, education, transportation, racial justice, immigration, and incarceration of people with disabilities.

Amber facilitates the federal-state working group Disability Power for Community Integration. She also supports international disability learning exchange, particularly through the U.S. Professional Fellows Programs. Amber is a skilled presenter and trainer, a member of ADA25 and Leadership Greater Chicago, and a recipient of numerous local and national awards for her disability advocacy.

Amber is a proud member of the Deaf community who grew up in mainstreamed schools, learned ASL as a young adult, and now relies on lip-reading, ASL interpreters, and video relay technologies for communication access.

CHERYL FARNEY

Cheryl (Farney) Hahn is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist and works as Trilogy, Inc.’s Development Coordinator. Cheryl is on the Board of Directors at Trilogy, Inc., is the Secretary for Gift of Voice, and is a WRAP Recovery Educator. Cheryl is a member of the PAIMI Council at Equip for Equality. She is also on the Program Committee for ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. Cheryl earned a B.A. in Theatre and Classics from the College of Wooster in Ohio and a Master’s Certificate in Women’s Studies from Loyola University of Chicago.

MARK WILLIAMS

Mark Williams develops and manages foundation and government grants at United Way of Metro Chicago. Mark has served the nonprofit and disability communities for many years and was a member of both the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois and the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee. Mark earned his B.A. in American Studies from Lake Forest College and M.S. in Human Services Administration from Spertus College. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors at Blind Service Association, and Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago.

MICHELE LEE

Michele Lee is a diversity leader at Aon and founder of the Empowering Abilities Employee Resource Group. Michele is passionate about disability employment, universal access, and accessible transportation. Michele represents Aon on the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Business Advisory Board. Michele earned a B.A. from the University of Arizona.

MARY ROSENBERG

Mary is an attorney on Access Living’s civil rights team. She represents people with disabilities in discrimination cases, conducts education and outreach about disability rights laws, and is involved in public policy advocacy. Formerly, as an attorney at Prairie State Legal Services, Mary represented homeowners in foreclosure. Prior to law school, Mary taught middle and high school special education in New York City. She completed her undergrad degree at Loyola University in Chicago and received a master’s degree in special education from Pace University. She graduated from John Marshall Law School in the top 3 percent of her class.