Miranda is a Community Education Coordinator at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. Here she describes how she landed at Disability Network and why she stays!
I first learned what a Center for Independent Living (CIL) is in high school when I attended a program where someone from Disability Network was a presenter. I went away to college and connected with the CIL there, in fact, I did an internship with them. After that, I knew I wanted to work for a CIL – I didn’t care where it was. Being a person with a disability, I faced a lot of discrimination growing up and there were very low expectations for me, even from myself. I felt like all my life people told me what I was going to do, but at a CIL, people with disabilities are treated with respect and make their own decisions. This was definitely something I wanted to be part of.
After college I moved back to the Kalamazoo area and started volunteering at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. They offered me a one-year position through the AmeriCorps program. During that year, I applied to CILs all over the country; mostly out west, in warmer climates. At the end of the year, Disability Network persuaded me to stay on in a permanent position. That was 13 years ago . . . so much for the warm climate.
I worked as an Independent Living Specialist for a short time and then moved over to the Community Education Department. I didn’t have any experience speaking in front of people, but I was willing to give it a try, and because I believed in what I was talking about so much, it came pretty naturally to me. I enjoy being part of the Advocacy and Community Education team because I want the world to be a better place – I see that change happening and I feel like I’m part of it. My favorite part of my job is teaching young people with disabilities about disability history. It’s not something that’s taught in school so, for most of them, it is new information. There’s an “ah-ha” moment that you can see on their faces when they realize they are part of something bigger. It’s very rewarding to help make that happen.