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2024 National APSE Board Nominee: Natalie Tortorello, NJ

2024 National APSE Board of Directors Northeast Regional Delegate 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:

Service Provider or Manager, Teacher, Employer or Business Owner, Human Resources Professional

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:

As the Chief Operating Officer of Our House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting adults with developmental disabilities, my journey in promoting competitive integrated employment (CIE) has been both purposeful and transformative. My commitment to CIE began early in my career at Our House where I witnessed firsthand the immense potential within individuals with disabilities when given equal opportunities. Over the years, through my involvement with both Our House and Alliance for Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD), I support the goal of meaningful employment for all. Our House has been at the forefront of these efforts, advocating for policies that foster inclusion and dismantle barriers.  Through strategic partnerships, we’ve developed innovative programs that bridge the gap between job seekers and employers. Our vocational training initiatives equip participants with essential skills, preparing them for competitive roles. We’ve engaged with local businesses, emphasizing the value of diverse talent and dispelling misconceptions about hiring individuals with disabilities. As a result, we’ve seen lives transformed—individuals who were once marginalized now thrive in fulfilling careers.    I recently completed my tenure as an elected Board of Education member in Ocean Township. While there, I supported inclusion and transition programs, including for students ages 18-21. When we create pathways to employment, and show young adults that they have this choice, we empower people to realize their dreams.  In addition, when we promote CIE, we challenge stereotypes and shift perceptions while providing financial stability and independence. It’s a pathway to self-sufficiency, reducing reliance on social assistance programs. When individuals earn a competitive wage, they gain agency over their lives, making choices that matter to them.  My continuing journey in promoting CIE has been marked by collaboration and I hope to continue that journey in service to APSE.  

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

APSE and its chapters play a pivotal role in shaping national and state conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). First, through advocacy and influence, APSE serves as a powerful advocate for competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. By actively participating in EDI discussions, APSE ensures that the voices of people with disabilities are heard. Our collective influence can drive policy changes, funding allocations, and systemic improvements.  Second, APSE’s expertise informs policies and practices related to disability employment. Our insights contribute to the development of inclusive legislation, guidelines, and best practices. As a result, APSE chapters and members directly impact the lives of job seekers with disabilities.  Finally, there are both educational and business initiatives which balance fostering awareness while emphasizing the business case for CIE. On a local level, chapters are able to highlight success stories while dispelling myths, in order to create a positive, inclusive environment for hiring individuals with disabilities.  This supports not only the businesses and people we serve, but also community integration in its most natural form.   Our House employees have held membership in APSE for many years and benefited greatly from the support of others in the field and the trainings offered, to name just a few benefits. By being a representative of the NJ APSE chapter, can bring my skills and experience to the table to champion equity, challenge biases, and create opportunities for all.  

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?

I am dedicated to advocating for the empowerment of individuals with disabilities. Having previously worked in for-profit education and having served on various Boards of non-profits, I have seen the long-term positive effect on people when they have choices and meaning in their lives.  My unique blend of skills, knowledge, and passion aligns with APSE’s mission.   My expertise in financial planning, budgeting, and resource allocation enables me to navigate complex financial landscapes. I’ve successfully managed budgets for Our House and worked with ABCD to advocate to optimize funds to maximize impact, including changes to the housing voucher rates in NJ. By applying these skills, I can help APSE make informed financial decisions, ensuring sustainability and growth.  In addition, throughout my career, I’ve built strong relationships with key stakeholders including served individuals, families, and government agencies.  This is essential to helping APSE by identifying mutually beneficial collaborations to amplify our impact.  This impact, however, needs to be based on data-driven decision-making, something that I have instilled with my team at Our House.  The more data APSE has, the better it is to analyze financial metrics, identify trends, and make stronger, evidence-based recommendations.  However, having the data and making decisions needs to be balanced with having transparent financial reporting, which builds trust with all keyholders.    In summary, my multifaceted background combined with my dedication to this mission position me to contribute significantly to APSE’s financial well-being. 

Candidates for Regional Delegate seats only: Discuss how you will represent the needs of the chapters in your region and work to strengthen APSE’s chapter structure.

If selected, I will remain committed to APSE’s mission.  I will actively engage with chapter leaders, members, and stakeholders which will allow me to advocate at the state and national level. As a member of ABCD’s Legislative Committee, I have regular conversations with state lawmakers and will continue to advocate for CIE in those conversations. In addition, I will work to facilitate knowledge sharing among chapters, encouraging best practices, innovative solutions, and lessons learned. We must work together to create the change that we seek. Whether through virtual forums, regional conferences, or webinars, we will build a supportive network that reflects the diversity of our communities that we support.    In summary, my commitment as a Regional Delegate candidate will be to make sure that our advocacy is impactful both locally and nationally.   

Biography

Since 2015, Natalie has served as Chief Operating Officer at Our House, Inc., a not-for-profit social services agency serving adults with developmental disabilities. Her focus as COO is in the behind the scenes operations of the $20MM agency including HR and QA. Prior to that, Natalie spent 15 years working on curriculum and assessment development and policy development in private education. She holds a Master’s in Organizational Psychology from Kean and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Rutgers. Having served on numerous Boards, including the American Lung Association, Natalie recently completed four years as an elected member of her local Board of Education. She is heavily involved in her children’s’ school PTAs and serves on several committees for ABCD-NJ. Through these affiliations, Natalie participates in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with developmental disabilities. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family at beach and traveling.

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