Olivia Mozzi, a speaker for the disABILITY Awareness program, shares her “why JMF” story and how she educates students on the importance of the words they choose every day.
Your words matter.
I began volunteering with the Joseph Maley Foundation four years ago. I have cerebral palsy and am drawn to organizations that advocate for people with disabilities like me, so volunteering as a speaker sounded like a natural fit. Each time I present with the disABILITY Awareness program, I remind students that what they say to others has an impact, and I teach them positive ways to talk to people with disabilities.
I haven’t always enjoyed talking about my disability. I go through periods of time where it feels like everyone is staring at me and I want nothing more than to shrink away, or at least hide my crutches. But sharing my story was part of my journey in finding the power in my disability. When I enter a room and all the heads turn to look at my crutches, I can use that attention to share a platform of equal opportunity. I know I’ve come a long way in embracing my weird yet strong body when I’m able to answer a middle school student’s question that yes, there are advantages to having a disability.
My words matter.
I believe that the earlier children are exposed to individuals with disabilities, the better. I live an adventurous life and love telling students that I am scuba certified and once learned flying trapeze. There is no better moment during a presentation than witnessing a kid realize how much a person with a disability is capable of doing.
Kids who are invited to ask questions of those who are different from them grow into adults who naturally create inclusive environments. The disABILITY Awareness program is building the next generation of allies for the disability community by empowering students to break down stereotypes and listen to real, lived experiences of people with disabilities.
It is a joy and an honor to contribute my story to that effort.
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Olivia Mozzi, disABILITY Awareness Speaker