Monday, November 19, 2018

Dick Thornburgh Disability Service Award

I've been loving all of the advocacy and activism work that I've been doing over the last year and a half. "Loving" isn't even exactly the right word - I've become so passionate about it, and I've learned so much, and I've been introduced to so many new people and experiences and opportunities. If you're just a blog reader, it may seem like this is something that I've always done, but in reality, this has been a whole new world to me. I am so incredibly grateful for all of the people who have helped me get immersed into this community, and for the people who have really been my cheerleaders and champions, and who have invited me to groups and places to help me become a part of the conversation surrounding disability and accessibility advocacy.

And while it was never my goal to be recognized for the work that I do, I am truly honored whenever people recognize the work that I am doing. A few weeks ago, I received one such honor - the Dick Thornburgh Disability Service Award. Each year, this award is presented to a student at Pitt who has made a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities. The Award was presented during the Thornburgh Family Lecture, where I got to meet Governor and Mrs. Thornburgh and their son. They have been passionate disability advocates for many years, and I was so lucky to have the chance to meet them.

Since it was the Thornburgh Family Lecture, it was also really special to be able to have my family (and friends) be with me to receive the Award! We were all treated to a really interesting lecture about a service dog training program that pairs puppies with inmates at a local prison for the first year and a half of the dog's life. The prisoners do all of the basic obedience training that the dogs require before they can go off to the more "advanced" training kennel for service dogs. It was really touching to hear stories of how much the inmates loved working with their dogs. We got to meet Ella, an incredibly cute service dog-in-training, and see her show off a few tricks, too.

It's always hard to wrap up a post like this one, because everything that I could say sounds really cliche. But truly, I am so grateful and honored to have received this award, and I can only hope that the work I do lives up to the legacy of what the Thornburghs have done.

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