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2024 National APSE Board Nominee: Kie O’Donnell, RI

2024 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate

MEET THE NOMINEES FOR THE 2024 NATIONAL APSE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: CLICK to read about all nominees before the election ends on March 18.

The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:

Family Member of a Person with a Disability, Service Provider or Manager, University Staff, Other: Consultant

Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in your state. Additionally, explain why you are passionate about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities:

This is what I was born to do. “In the days before daycare” I would go with my mother who worked in a Sheltered Workshop and learn first-hand the realities of where people with disabilities were at the time. It has been a profound honor and experience to also help lead the successful transition of one of the largest workshops in Rhode Island, and the cultural movement that is still very much occurring in my state. Having the pleasure to serve my community for over 20 years in a variety of capacities including direct support, advocate, instructor, consultant and leader has been what continues to propel me to seek the best and challenge myself “to be better than the me of yesterday”. APSE has very much been a power source to fuel this personal and professional development, and I am grateful for the amazing people I have had the chance to collaborate with within Rhode Island and beyond. Having served on the State Chapter and National Boards only makes me want to dig deeper and explore how I can continue and strive to make a difference. Let’s build brave spaces together.

What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion?

There is great urgency and value in recognizing the intersectionality and impact of ongoing actions to elevate the inclusion of people with disabilities in the context of civil rights and social justice. Disability continues to be the one marginalized population that is also present among all other historically-excluded groups. With that said, there is more work to be done than to celebrate, and we as an organization and stakeholders have a responsibility to continue to advance and revisit these opportunities to challenge ourselves and others. This is not a “training”, it’s a movement.

What skills, knowledge, or lived experience do you have that will contribute to strengthening and growing the financial health of APSE and promoting its mission to advance employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities?

The power of network. As people possess varying types of capital, Social Capital is an area that I work hard to build, and even harder to maintain. In turn, when you develop alliances and bonds with those that can offer a plethora of other types of capital, there is an offer, not an ask needed to help contribute towards a cause people believe in. Similar to my experience in career development and working with businesses, understanding the potential for ongoing partnerships can many times advance more sustainable opportunities for collaboration than cookie-cutter donation approaches. By weaving such relationships and resources together, can leverage possibilities that everyone finds value in and improve the bottom line.

Biography

Kiernan “Kie” O’Donnell was raised by a community resource advocate in a family that includes people with disabilities and learned the importance and power of inclusion at an early age. Such life lessons and relationships helped propel his professional career where he began working in a direct support capacity as a job coach, and through 17 years of dedication and teambuilding now heads a number of initiatives at The Fogarty Center as the Director of Community Day, Youth in Transition and Employment Services. Most widely known for his work in the documentary film by Dan Habib “Intelligent Lives”, Kie has strived to make transition towards a more equitable future a reality for those he serves, and helped lead a successful closure of one of the largest sheltered workshops in Rhode Island. Throughout his journey, Kie has provided direct support, leadership, strategic planning, training, consultation and technical assistance nationally in a variety of capacities including community, competitive inclusive employment, youth in transition, transportation, technology, funding and organizational transformation. Living in the city of Providence for twenty years, values the importance of diversity, which has informed his practice and ethics greatly.  A longtime community advocate, Kie helped establish the Rhode Island chapter of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (RIAPSE) where he holds the role of Co-President, and functions as the Delegates Chair for the National APSE Board of Directors. As an Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators (ACRE) instructor and consultant through the NEON grants, Kie has influenced a number of emerging professionals in Rhode Island and nationally through his passion and expertise, namely around customized employment strategies and using a business-friendly approach towards creative workforce solutions. Kie also serves on the Team ASTRO board helping inform strategy and resource application for at-risk youth in the greater Pawtucket area. Kie is a proud father to his wonderful Kieragh and currently lives in Exeter, Rhode Island where he hones his 28 plus year calling as a hip hop artist in The Components, motorcycle enthusiast, SDONKERS scooter club member and unapologetic advocate. “One’s leadership is measured by the leadership you cultivate in others”. 

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