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Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Staff Highlight: Cindy Gray

Cindy Gray, Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Cindy is an Information & Referral / Advocacy Specialist at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. Cindy’s passion for advocacy and helping people are a perfect fit for the works she does.

I’ve been involved in advocating for disability rights since I became a mom. My daughter, Julie, was born with cerebral palsy and a developmental disability. She had a physical therapist who worked with her at home when she was a toddler; that woman taught me a lot about advocating and I guess I never stopped. I was on a lot of advisory boards and community councils when my kids were in school, making sure that the rights of all kids with disabilities were being met. Julie finished high school with a certificate of completion, and she was very proud of that, but the school said that she could not participate in the graduation ceremony because she wasn’t getting a diploma. I put my advocacy skills to work and lobbied the board of education to allow the certificate students to participate, and it worked. Julie’s graduation day is one of her fondest memories. My advocacy skills must have been appreciated by some people, because the next year I was on the board of education.

Before working at Disability Network Southwest Michigan, I worked at a local ARC of Michigan office and Michigan Alliance for Families, so I was connected to the staff at Disability Network through those jobs. When a position opened for an Information & Referral Specialist in the St. Joseph office, it felt like a good fit for me. I’ve been here ten years now.

What I like the most about my job is when I can see people connecting to the services they need. I don’t always get to connect with them down the road to know how things turned out, but often I do, and it’s a great feeling.  So many people with disabilities don’t have anyone in their lives who will stand up with them.  I like helping people connect to what they need, but even more, getting people to advocate for themselves – they become empowered and that’s so rewarding.