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2021 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship Recipients

by | Aug 26, 2021 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to announce the eight recipients of the 2021 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship. With generous support from NBCUniversal, the Tony Coelho Media Scholarship was named for a former United States Representative and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The scholarship was provided to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are interested in increasing disability representation in their future careers in the communications, media, or entertainment industries. “A commitment and focus on disability inclusion and representation in our industry, both in front of and behind the camera, is long overdue,” said Craig Robinson, Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, NBCUniversal. “We are proud to continue our relationship with the AAPD, and to support the Tony Coelho Media Scholarship as we shepherd a new generation of talent that provides visibility to the millions of people worldwide living with a disability.”

AAPD President and CEO, Maria Town, stated “From opera to public health, from corporate campaigns to journalism, this year’s scholarship recipients’ backgrounds and experiences highlight the diversity of the communications, media, and entertainment fields and how they shape our society’s understanding of disability. We are continually grateful to NBCUniversal for their support of these talented recipients who will enhance disability representation in the media and beyond.”

During 2021-2022, NBCUniversal and AAPD will collaborate to provide several opportunities to support the recipient’s growth in their academic pursuits and their career development. NBCUniversal plans several opportunities such as panels with NBCUniversal’s MyAbilities Employment Resource Group, conversations around how to get involved with NBCUniversal, resources for early career professionals, and engagement among the cohort. AAPD will provide national and community exposure to the disability community, opportunities to meet past recipients, and opportunities to collaborate with other program participants.

Each recipient from the 2021 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship was awarded for their demonstrated knowledge and passion in their field of media industries. The recipients also were selected based on not only their commitment and contribution to disability representation in the media but their future aspirations to meaningfully include and engage the disability community in their career.

Award recipients received $5,625 each to help cover the cost of education at their current college or university. Please join us in congratulating the eight (8) recipients for the 2021 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship!

The 2021 scholarship recipients are highlighted below:

Desmond Bunting
Luther College

Pronouns: They/Them

Desmond Bunting is a rising sophomore this year at Luther College studying Vocal Performance and Sociology with a minor in German. They’ve been living on the Autism spectrum and with other disabilities as well being neuro-divergent has given them the drive to truly take life by the reins and create a space for people of minority groups to feel represented. Desmond was raised to understand the importance of honing your own voice, loves performing, and thrives in any type of musical setting. During this school year, they spent their time cultivating their own personal morals to take with them into the world of entertainment. Desmond is grateful for this opportunity to pursue their dreams, and they hope to one day open a non-profit to help bring music and music education to underfunded and inner-city schools around the country with students who meet the intersection of race, gender, disability, and other minority groups. They also love to cook for their friends and family, binge watch the Great British Baking Show, and cuddle with cats.

Sabian Castalia
Brooklyn College

Pronouns: She/They

Sabian Castalia is a comedic storyteller and aspiring creative producer in the film & television industry. She attends Brooklyn College where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Film Production while gaining professional coordination experience at a media production company. In her free time, she creates short films centered around navigating the world as a queer person with disabilities. As a creative producer, she aims to destigmatize disabilities by normalizing themes of humor, empathy, and joy in the stories told about the community. Sabian is deeply honored to receive the 2021 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship so she can continue working toward a future as a community-minded collaborator in the film industry.

Israel Jurado
Harvard University

Pronouns: He/Him

Israel is a proud first-generation gay Latinx Public Health and Social Justice advocate. He is working to help remove the barriers that block marginalized communities from achieving their fullest health potential. Israel completed his Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science-Dietetics from the University of California Berkeley in May 2019. As an undergraduate student, Israel worked in various roles relating to improving health outcomes, research, health promotion, and nutrition security for marginalized communities at Berkeley Food Pantries, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, UCSF Children’s Hospital of Oakland, and UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. In July 2020, he completed his year-long clinical nutrition-focused dietetic internship at UCSF Medical Center, completing Adult and Pediatric Nutrition rotations. Since graduating, Israel has played a prominent role in improving overall health outcomes for marginalized communities at Petaluma Health Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Fall 2021, Israel will start his Master of Public Health Nutrition program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. After obtaining his Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential, he plans to continue promoting evidence-based preventive health through mass media efforts, and advocating for healthcare policies that support, heal, and not hurt underrepresented communities that include individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and Latinx people.

Zane Landin
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pronouns: He/Him

Zane Landin is pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and a Minor in Philosophy at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Landin is currently interning with General Motors as a Global Communications Intern with GM Brand and got involved in ‘GM Able,’ which is GM’s disability employee resource group (ERG). He supported GM’s Disability Pride Month efforts for social media, internal communications, and storytelling. Landin is the founder and CEO of PositiveVibes Magazine, which is a digital magazine showcasing the thematic stories of mental health, disability, wellness, and spirituality. He is currently helping as a volunteer social media and public relations development intern for Accessible Festivals, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to making the music festival space accessible and inclusive. Landin is a past intern with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) where he supported advocacy and policy matters. Landin is currently spearheading efforts at his university to begin a disability cultural center (DCC) and beginning a student organization – Empowered Disabilities.

Christopher Lukens
Loyola Marymount University

Pronouns: He/Him

Chris Lukens is an aspiring screenwriter who seeks to create films that see the world through a different lens than traditional Hollywood blockbusters while empowering underserved and underrepresented communities. He is a first-year Master of Fine Arts student in the Writing for the Screen Program at Loyola Marymount University. One of the main goals of Chris’ work is to write films in which emotional and mental disabilities are not only de-stigmatized but portrayed as manageable parts of life, rather than flaws to be defeated.

Manisha “Misha” Palla
Columbia University

Pronouns: She/Her

With a background in technology, Misha is passionate about the intersection of communications and technology in shaping how and when we communicate. By pursuing a Master of Business Administration at Columbia University, focused on business communications and organizational dynamics, Misha hopes to work as an Executive Communications Director responsible for global communications strategies within a technology company. While the spectrum of disabilities is broad, she believes that we can build a more inclusive future with the right mindset and optimal technology solutions.

Tavleen Tarrant
Columbia University

Pronouns: She/Her

Tavleen Tarrant is a 26-year-old freelance journalist who will be attending the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in the fall for her Master of Science in Journalism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland in psychology and international relations and a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences from the University of New South Wales in International Relations, graduating with first-class honors. She is most passionate about social justice, particularly when it comes to gender and labor issues in the United States and abroad. She is excited to utilize her passion for international relations and world politics during her upcoming journalism degree and to explore the world of documentary filmmaking, which she will be specializing in during her upcoming graduate program.

She is also keen to further explore disability rights issues and write more articles about disability including topics such as chronic pain, disability justice, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities, during her time at Columbia.

Allison Wallis
New York University

Pronouns: She/Her

Allison Wallis is a graduate student at the Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University and works as a freelance journalist on the disability beat. She earned a graduate certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies from the University of Hawai’i after leaving the hospitality industry due to her disabilities. Much of her work explores the effects of her disabilities and chronic pain on her body and mind and she has been published in outlets such as The Washington Post, Healthline, and Electric Literature. She is active on social media and helps fellow chronically ill and disabled people learn how to navigate the medical system. An ambulatory wheelchair user, she loves a good, long ramp because rolling down it feels like flying. Allison lives on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii with her daughter Abigail, husband Brandon, Koa the Tripod dog, and Rosie the chinchilla.




The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com