For Immediate Release
January 11, 2017
Contact: Zach Baldwin
Through the AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) recognizes outstanding emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community. Two individuals each receive $2,500 in recognition of their outstanding contributions and $7,500 to further a new or existing initiative that increases the political and economic power of people with disabilities.
AAPD is proud to announce Ola Ojewumi and Katherine Perez as the recipients of the 2017 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards.
Founder, Project ASCEND
Founder, Sacred Hearts Children’s Transplant Foundation
Ola Ojewumi is an activist, journalist, and a community organizer based in Washington, DC. She founded two nonprofits, Sacred Hearts Children’s Transplant Foundation and Project ASCEND. These organizations provide college scholarships to low-income students, funding for women’s education programs, support for global mentorship groups and literacy programs, and distributes teddy bears and books to children awaiting organ transplants across the United States. These initiatives have reached hundreds of young people living in Washington, D.C., West Africa, and Central America.
Ola initiated these charitable efforts after receiving a lifesaving heart and kidney transplant, which inspired her to begin giving back to her community. The Clinton Global Initiative, MTV, Intel, Glamour Magazine, and The Huffington Post have praised her initiatives. Presently, she works as a contract specialist for the federal government and works as a freelancer having written for CNN and The Huffington Post. In addition, she’s served on boards for nonprofit organizations created by General Colin Powell and musician Lady Gaga. As an advocate, she has advised the Obama Administration on policies to advance the lives of people living with disabilities and held internships in the White House and with Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic National Committee, and Congressman Albert R. Wynn. Her overall aspiration is to use public policy, journalism, and activism to change the world for disadvantaged populations.
Project ASCEND is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that sponsors college scholarship and community grant programs that equip youth with civic engagement opportunities. Project ASCEND was founded in 2011; our mission is to create higher education opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged young people across the globe. We provide college scholarships to low-income and disabled youth, funding for women’s education programs, support for mentorship groups and literacy programs. Our initiatives have reached hundreds of young people living in Washington, D.C., West Africa, and Central America.
Founding Member, National Coalition of Latinxs with Disabilities
Katherine Perez is a scholar and activist from La Mirada, California. She graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2013 and is currently a PhD Candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her scholarship engages critical legal and historical analyses of disability laws and policies. She presents on various topics including the Disability Rights Movement (DRM) and is interested in building bridges between Latinx and disability organizations as the DRM progresses. Prior to law school, Katherine served in the Peace Corps in Peru and as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellow in Washington, DC.
She is the proud granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and openly identifies as having a psychiatric disability. Katherine believes it is time that we shut down the stigma, recognize, accept, and celebrate difference. As a disabled advocate, she also challenges the community to think about how racism and ableism function together to oppress disabled people of color.
The mission of the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities is to work toward a society in which the human rights of Latinxs with disabilities are upheld and all their intersecting identities embraced. Katherine founded the coalition with a group of professionals and scholars across the nation who are committed to celebrating and empowering Latinxs with disabilities and their allies through community building, advocacy, protection of rights, resources, and education. As a new organization, they have organized several efforts including their upcoming second annual conference and a national research study that will take place in various cities across the U.S. in 2017.
AAPD founder Paul G. Hearne was a passionate advocate for increased employment of people with disabilities. Paul opened doors for thousands through his leadership of Just One Break, an employment agency for people with disabilities in New York City, and The Dole Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities in Washington, DC.
“As a result of Paul’s vision and passion, AAPD continues to cultivate and lift-up the next generation of disability leaders,” said Helena Berger, AAPD’s President and CEO. “AAPD is proud to recognize this year’s AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award recipients. Through Ola’s and Katherine’s outstanding work, Paul’s legacy lives on!”
The recipients of the 2017 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards will be honored at the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, DC on March 7, 2017. You can learn more about this year’s award recipients on the AAPD website. Please join us in congratulating Ola and Katherine on their extraordinary accomplishments.
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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 50+ million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation.