National Leadership Program for Young Leaders

by October 20, 2017

My name is Calvin Harris, and I am a proud graduate of Morehouse College. Attending a historical black college played an integral role in my professional development and incited my passion for social justice. I carried that passion to RespectAbility, where I currently serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

I want to let you know about our National Leadership Program for young leaders who want to go into public policy, advocacy, communications or Hollywood, and who are committed to ending stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. RespectAbility is looking to hire the next generation of leaders to be our Fellows, and we would love to have your help with identifying talented students who are committed to equal rights.




Here are the facts:

  • Of the 5.4 million African Americans living with disability in the United States, 43 percent won’t graduate high school unless something is changed.
  • Only 27.6 percent blacks with a disability in our nation have a job, and 40 percent live in poverty.
  • There are 750,000 people with disabilities currently incarcerated in our nation.

RespectAbility is currently looking to hire Fellows for our spring cohort that runs from January 2nd to May 25th, with flexibility for start dates. We will accept 10-12 outstanding applicants from around the country who want to advance disability issues and who are seeking careers in media, public policy or advocacy. We also are accepting applications for our upcoming summer and fall semesters.

Fellows are given the unique opportunity to work with our highly trained program staff on communications and stigma reduction, public policy, nonprofit fundraising or faith inclusion.

As a Fellow, they will have the chance to help our mission of:

  • Reducing the “school-to-prison-pipeline” for people with disabilities, by advocating for students with disabilities so they get all of the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.
  • Erasing the nearly 50 percent gap in labor force participation rate so that diverse people with disabilities can have jobs and a better future.
  • Ensuring that diverse people with disabilities are positively and accurately portrayed in Hollywood.
  • Educating philanthropists about the struggles people with disabilities face in getting out of poverty, and how early intervention and effective support mechanisms can enable their success.
  • Encouraging communities of faith to be inclusive of people with disabilities.
  • Encouraging everyone to be transparent and inclusive of people with disabilities because it takes a village to raise a child, especially a child with a disability.

Fellows also will work with our on-site job coach, strengthening skills in advocacy and leadership as well as hands-on training in public speaking, writing, social media and networking. The Fellowship enables our young leaders to gain critical skills to start their careers in public policy, media or advocacy. Alumni of the program have gone on to work at the White House, Congress, The World Bank and elsewhere.

There are opportunities for both paid and unpaid Fellowships. Paid fellows make $15 an hour and we hire eight of them each year. Unpaid fellows receive a monthly transportation stipend of $300. Lunch is provided daily for all Fellows. In addition, all Fellows participate in special presentations by guest speakers and intensive strategic communications workshops.

To apply, young leaders must fill out our online application or for more information, contact Ben Spangenberg, National Leadership Manager, at or call (202) 517-6272.

Thank you for your consideration and help!


Calvin Harris
Chair, Board of Directors

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