Meet the Leaders!

Disability Lead
Power. Influence. Change.
3 min readDec 13, 2019
A group photo of about 20 people with visible and invisible disabilities pose with State Senator Robert Peters.

On December 12th, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership announced its class of 21 Fellows for 2020, the largest class in its five-year history. These accomplished leaders represent a cross-section of professionals from the region’s nonprofit, government, corporate and philanthropic sectors.

The event also welcomed the 17 individuals who are graduating from the 2019 Leadership Institute as well as 7 individuals to the Members Network, comprising 142 diverse leaders with disabilities.

The announcement was attended by more than 100 Members, supporters, and allies, including State Senator Robert Peters, who keynoted the event. In his remarks to our incoming and graduating classes, he remarked, “By joining Advancing Leadership, you are now part of a vision that people with disabilities will lead with influence, and the state of Illinois needs that voice at every table possible. Congratulations for taking the step to lead with your whole self and sharing your needed voice with communities around the region.”

The class of 2020 comes to Advancing Leadership from more than 17 neighborhoods and communities to build their leadership acumen, explore and define their disability identity, and engage with different perspectives and worldviews.

Throughout the course of the year, these new Fellows will participate in an immersive learning experience that prepares them to collaborate and to lead with their disability identity, supported by the power of a large, effective network. Past Fellows have called the program “transformative,” “of the highest value,” and “like a master class in pride.”

Meet the Class of 2020

64 individuals applied

21 were invited to be a 2020 Fellow

70% identify as people of color

24% identify as queer or gay

47% reside in City of Chicago

53% reside outside of the City of Chicago

38% are men

62% are women

Our 2020 Fellows Include…

  • Brianna Beck: Art Therapist, Thresholds
  • Keidra Chaney: Communications Coordinator, National Network of Abortion Funds
  • Brianne Coleman: Administrative Assistant, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Candace Coleman: Racial Justice Organizer, Access Living
  • C. Richard Costes: Manager, Chapter & Membership Services, Association for Corporate Growth
  • Derrick Dawson: Co-Program Coordinator, Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism
  • Deborah Decker: Assistant General Counsel, ComEd
  • LaShon Gurrola: RN Coordinator/Transitional Care Nurse, Rush University Medical Center
  • Whitney Hill: Program Manager & Communications Director, Blind Service Association
  • Shantinel L. Howard: Mapping Supervisor, ComEd
  • Christopher Huff: President and CEO, The Righteous Ambition Program — Bureau of Violence Aversion
  • Laura Isaacs: Executive Assistant, Grant Thornton LLP
  • Michelle N. Johnson: Founder, Fighting Fiercely
  • Adero Knott: Founder & CEO, AK Prosthetics
  • Edison Lopez Jr: Specialist, Apple Store
  • Alex Perez-Garcia: Associate Director of Development and Communications, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership
  • Brian Rhode: Retail Associate, Meijer
  • Eugene Skonicki: Career Law Clerk to the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall at United States District Court, Northern District of IL
  • Suhail Tariq: Sales Operations Supervisor, CDW Inc.
  • Hugo Trevino: Disability Services Specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • John Tuhey: Principal, The Tuhey Law Firm LLC

Our New Members Include…

  • Kate Caldwell: Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Michelle Friedman
  • Vanessa Harris: Owner, VA Harris Consulting
  • Phil Mungai
  • Benjamin Salentine: Associate Director Health Sciences- Managed Care/ PhD Disability Studies Candidate at UI Health
  • Carrie Sandahl: Associate Professor, Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Karen Sheley: Director, Police Practices Project at ACLU of Illinois

In addition to the announcement, Advancing Leadership’s Board President, Karen Tamley, who also serves as Chicago’s Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, recognized key founder and former Executive Director, Emily Harris, in recognition of her extraordinary service and leadership. “On behalf of the Board of Directors of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, we express our deepest appreciation for all of Emily’s outstanding contributions. She helped launch and guide this organization, and for that, we are both grateful and commit to continuing her legacy.”



Disability Lead
Power. Influence. Change.

We connect Chicagoans with disabilities to leadership positions throughout the region. Learn more at