The Boggs Center, New Jersey’s federally designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service, celebrated the graduation of its sixth Partners in Policymaking Class on Saturday, April 22, 2023, in New Brunswick. New Jersey Partners in Policymaking is a leadership development and advocacy education program for adults with developmental disabilities and family members of young children and transition age youth available through collaboration between the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, and Disability Rights New Jersey. The goal of this program is to prepare the next generation of disability advocates to work toward meaningful change in our state.
New Jersey’s program is one of twenty-eight Partners in Policymaking programs across the country. This year’s class of four people with disabilities, seventeen parents, and one sibling join more than 30,000 graduates across the country ready to collaborate with policymakers to increase the inclusion, self-determination, and well-being of people with disabilities. Graduates were celebrated in-person through empowering and inspiring remarks from Mercedes Witowsky, Executive Director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities and Gwen Orlowski, JD, Executive Director of Disability Rights New Jersey. Deborah M. Spitalnik, PhD, founding Executive of The Boggs Center and Professor of Pediatrics and Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, motivated the class as she placed them firmly in the history of disability advocacy and encouraged them to leave a lasting legacy.
The event culminated with presentations from each of the graduates, who shared stories of learning and advocacy across the lifespan, relationship building, and future goals to creating meaningful change. This powerful group will lead the way toward advocating for lasting change that will help people with disabilities realize their vision for life. Listen to the audio recording of this year’s Partners Graduation Panel Presentation to learn more about their experiences.
Luisa Chastel Messner
Octavio Cuenca Maldonado
The next class of NJ Partners in Policymaking will begin in September 2023 and is open to people with disabilities over the age of 21 and family members of children and youth with disabilities. Participants are selected through a competitive application process. Those eligible and interested can learn more and apply on the Partners in Policymaking page of The Boggs Center’s website.