At only 11-years-old, Nora’s life story is already full of triumph and success. Following Nora’s Down syndrome diagnosis, her family came to Northwest Center in search of a daycare and early learning program that could also offer her early intervention services.
“It’s the only place in Seattle that actually had that and it was really important for our family,” recalls Nora’s mom, Marti. At 4-months-old Nora began attending Northwest Center Kids, an inclusive program where children with and without disabilities learn and play together. But Nora still had more to show the world that she could overcome.
Laethan Wene likes who he is: someone who advocates for people like himself. Someone who may have a disability, but who more importantly has a job, friends, an active social schedule and a lot of stories to tell. A member of Northwest Center’s Board of Directors, Wene has a connection to the organization that goes back nearly 30 years. He was a pre-teen when he first met longtime board member Parul Houlahan. At the time, she was working for the Washington Protection and Advocacy System—an organization that began at Northwest Center as The Troubleshooters and is now known as Disability Rights Washington (DRW). “When I was 12 years old, when my mom was still here, we made a trip down to see Ms. Houlahan. So I’ve known her ever since I was a kid.” Houlahan helped Laethan’s mother find the services he needed as a child with a developmental disability who would soon enter high school—and later, the world.
In early spring, Northwest Center received a letter. It started like this:
I am writing to convey my deepest admiration and appreciation for the expertise, commitment and excellence of Charly Walters, Employment Consultant, Spokane Northwest Center. Your organization could not be represented by a more professionally outstanding individual. I first met Charly when I interviewed her for the 2014 annual report for Spokane Country Regional Support Network (RSN), the public mental health administrator for Spokane. Charly’s participation in a collaborative initiative between Spokane Public Schools and the RSN to facilitate employment for high school students with acute and chronic mental illness was selected as a Highlight of Excellence for the RSN’s report. It was abundantly obvious…that the pioneering success of this initiative was due in large part to the vision, mentoring, enthusiasm and expertise of Charly Walters…. So, I thought, if Charly can accomplish employment success for this challenging population, perhaps she could assist my unemployed adult son, Spencer, who has Down syndrome. That was a mere two months ago, and this Saturday, after not being able to secure independent employment since 2007, Spencer will start his new job at Wendy’s.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.