2022 Scholarship Recipients
Izabelle is an aspiring script writer and filmmaker with a passion for storytelling, which she believes is a powerful tool to drive change. She is starting at Towson University as a junior, and is seeking a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media and Film. Her goal is to improve her storytelling skills to continue creating media that represent people with disabilities, especially invisible disabilities, as well as stories that help reduce stigma around mental health. She is starting a YouTube channel to host these stories in the form of webseries and short films, called “Cloudful TV.” She also has a newsletter on LinkedIn where she shares ways we can improve media representation for minority groups. Izabelle is a late diagnosed #ActuallyAutistic and ADHD. She also has physical invisible disabilities as a person with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and POTS. She considers herself a mental health and inclusion advocate.
Victoria Erdel Garcia
Victoria Erdel Garcia received her bachelor’s degree in Honors Sociology from the University of Notre Dame and began working full-time for Starfish Project, an anti-human trafficking organization. She is currently working toward her Master of Science in Communication from Purdue University. After receiving her degree, Victoria plans to train one of the survivors of trafficking at Starfish Project to take over her position and then transition to building her business, Victorious Communication Coaching LLC. As the founder and coach, Victoria, who lives with chronic complex migraines and ADHD, uses her business to support disabled and neurodivergent clients with their writing and public speaking goals. She is also drafting a writing/public speaking guide for her clients and those interested in accessible pedagogical methods.
Rachel Handlin was born in New York City, grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, and now calls Hawai‘i home. In 2020, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and Media from the California Institute of the Arts. She is currently enrolled in the MFA Photography program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Rachel is a multi-modal artist, a filmmaker, a large-format film photographer, a printmaker, and a sculptor. She is a keen observer of the world and its people, whose unique perspective reveals dimensions, beauties, and truths others may miss. Rachel is a loyal friend, a lover of films, and a joyful dancer. Her first short film, “15 grains of sand,” describes her experience as one of the few people in the world with Down syndrome to earn a college degree and shows how art can expand educational opportunities for people with disabilities. It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short at the 2021 Anchorage International Film Festival, and was an official selection for the 2021 Feeler Gauge Festival and Paris Short Film Festival, and the 2022 Woods Hole Film Festival. She is currently working on her second film, “STRANGERS ARE FRIENDS I HAVEN’T MET YET.”
University of Florida
N’Jhari Jackson known to most as Jay, is a Journalism Sports Media with a double minor in
Disabilities in Society and African American Studies. Jay is an Eagle Scout who has earned every available BSA Merit Badge and 24 Eagle Palm awards. N’Jhari hails from Tampa, FL. Having a love for poetry and storytelling, Jay is the author of four books with the latest being, “Thoughts, Just a Teen in Today’s America.” He has donated proceeds from the sale of his books to help fight pediatric cancer through V Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research and the Hailey Bankhead Foundation. Against the odds, Jay was selected as a walk-on for University of Florida Gator football team. He co-authored an op-ed with UF professor Sharon Austin in Governing Magazine titled, “Can Cincinnati’s New Mayor Address Its Economic Woes?” He has several publishing credits and continues to improve in multimedia reporting. Jay is the founder of four nonprofit organizations: NJs-Love-to-the-Rescue, Boys Read with Pride, Pajama Buddy Voyage, and Blankets for Vets. Jay has been able to study abroad thanks to scholarships and generous donations from UF alumni.
Jay is passionate about amplifying the voices of people with disabilities and exploring disability rights including athletes with disabilities. He hopes to be able to report and advocate sports law and disability rights in the sports arena.
University of California, Berkeley
Julia Métraux is a student at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, on the narrative writing track. She is the founder and president of her journalism school’s Disabled Journalists Association chapter. Métraux’s own experiences within the healthcare system as someone with a rare disease make her passionate about reporting on healthcare inequities, as well as disability justice. After graduating from her program, Métraux hopes to continue reporting on disability issues, as well as hanging out with her Havanese dog, Lucky.
Loyola Marymount University
Melanie Ojwang, a child of the South, is an aspiring TV writer striving to make escapism more inclusive. A Fulbright Program and VONA/Voices alum, Melanie is currently studying Writing and Producing for Television at Loyola Marymount University. Her writing aims to explore the spectrum of neurodivergence through underrepresented characters in hopes of addressing stigma and limited expectations.
University of Florida
Nancy Pickett is a documentary filmmaker with a passion for disability advocacy. She independently produced her first feature-length film, a documentary about pediatric cancer, in high school. The Golden Truth is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Her short films, which cover a range of topics from human trafficking to healthcare reform, have been recognized by film festivals across the country. After graduating summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in telecommunication from the University of Florida, Nancy decided to pursue her master’s degree in Public Interest Communication where she’s learning how to make her films go beyond raising awareness to create meaningful social change. Her latest project, a docu-series about disparities in healthcare, will also include resources such as a curriculum for medical students to learn about health equity, a website for patients navigating chronic illness, and a framework for accessible filmmaking practices. She is honored to be selected as a Tony Coelho Media Scholarship recipient and thankful for NBCUniversal‘s support of her education.
The George Washington University
Tea Slater (they/then) is an MPH candidate at George Washington University focusing on health communication. Their childhood experiences with structural and medical racism and ablism shaped their lifelong ambition to create a more equitable society. They have spent the last five years researching issues in the health care field that affect different communities and learned the value of stories in promoting change. They hope to use the skills learned in their program to effectively engage marginalized communities via authentic representation. Their ultimate career goals are to blend their love of fiction and passion for justice to create compelling stories via podcasts, novels, and television shows to inform and motivate people into disability and health action. They are grateful to receive this scholarship to support their dreams.