Joyce welcomes to the show Scott Hammerstrom, Maryann Kostelic, Courtney Sullivan, Taylor Rogers
June 1, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes to the show Scott Hammerstrom, manager of programs and partnerships for Bender Leadership Academy. This non-profit organization has been serving students with disabilities since 2001. It accomplishes the mission of competency-based workforce development through a continuum of learning. Its goal is to increase long-term competitive employment for youth with disabilities. The Bender Leadership Academy delivers competency building programs that enable students with disabilities to engage in educational, empowerment and work opportunities, celebrate successes, and set and achieve career journey goals. Scott will discuss his role in the organization and the various programs and services it offers students with disabilities. Also joining Joyce on the program will be Maryann Kostelic, Transition Coordinator, with the Central Valley High School in Monaca, PA and two of the district’s students, Courtney Sullivan (11th grader) and Taylor Rogers ( 12th grader) who recently benefited from the classes offered by the Bender Leadership Academy. Each will share how the classes have helped them prepare for the world of work.


Scott Hammerstrom, Maryann Kostelic, Courtney Sulllivan & Taylor Rogers- ecard

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JUNE 1, 2021

1:00 P.M. CST




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***                                                        This text, document, or file is based on live transcription.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.  This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.


>> Welcome to   "Disability Matters," with your host, Joyce Bender.  All comments, views and opinions expressed on the show are solely those of the host, guest and callers.  Now the host of   "Disability Matters," here is Joyce Bender.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hi, everyone, and with this show today, I am so fired up and ready to go.  I bet you heard that before.  That is a trivia question.  There is a President that used to say fired up and ready to go.  But I know Scott may know that on the line, but I bet millions of you across the United States know and around the world, I'm happy to have you with us.  I mentioned several weeks in a row that China is really getting a bigger listening audience, of course, there are 15 other countries with listening audiences and even though in a country like Saudi Arabia, there is only one person, that one person whoever you are, thank you and you are making a difference wherever you are, whatever country you are in, thank you.  Thank you.  Make sure you spread the news in your country, a special shout out to my close friend, Richard Roberts.  Richard Roberts, from Japan, Okinawa, who is soon going to be on our show again.  We had Richard who works with the State Department on a couple months ago.  And by the way, if you want to hear any of these shows, just subscribe to this show on Apple or Spotify,   "Disability Matters" with Joyce Bender on  Or, go to or, it may be easier for you on Apple or Spotify because you will then hear the upcoming shows, but if you want to go to, you can go right down through, hear any of the prior shows, such as the one that, as I said, Richard was on, with people right there, it was so awesome, with the translator, with the translator in Japan.  Now I have to tell you the big news.  You will hear Richard's show, he's arranged for us, you will hear that show again on June 8, Martindale Kawakami from Japan, and you know we have also had, in case you don't know, we have also had Tunisia, but Richard Roberts, I love you, he is with the State Department.  He is a fabulous human being.  I also have to have a shout out to Cheryl Harris from Tunisia and Geon Hyeong Cho from South Korea and Ming from Kazakhstan and ambassador Norland from Libya, we could go on and on.  But these people from the State Department, they are awesome.  You know that, they really rock.  Of course all of you here in the United States, you are number one.  Thank you.  You have to spread the news to other people.  I was talking to Judy Heumann and some other disability rights leaders, Marcy Roth, and Terry Hartman, and you know, we don't really have a history of where you can go and hear people even like the late Marca, if you are in the disability community you know that one name Marca, and if you go, you can hear these shows, we have to get these shows somehow, somewhere stored, so that all of you, but right now you can hear them, just go back through all the shows, you will see them listed.  When I talked about Marca, I can't forget my great friend Yoshiko Dart.  Yoshiko, I know you have everyone in Japan spreading the news about that radio show.  I know it will be heard there, it will be available to everyone around the world, because it's on demand.  They can go back and hear the show again.  But you lead on, and you get your friends in Japan to lead on, Yoshiko.  And I know you, I know you will stop listening, you will get on the E‑mail and you will be sending out E‑mails, because I know what you are like.

Finally, I have to say, Highmark, oh, my goodness, they have been the lead sponsor for years now.  They are just such a wonderful company and I appreciate their support.  Thank you.  Here is a little interesting trivia for one of my favorite employees, Scott Hammerstrom who will soon be talking to us, he is the manager of programs and partnerships for the Bender Leadership Academy, but he is also, yes, there is one other Pirate fan in the United States and it's Scott.  We are the two.  We are the die‑hard, we are the two.  But Scott, you know that music you heard introducing the show, did you know that was composed by Gerald our other employee?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: I was aware of that, yes.  Great music too.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Great sound there.  But yes, Scott and I, we are the two.  There are two, so you know it, there are two Pittsburgh Pirates, yeah, die‑hard, we are, every year we are going to the World Series, right, Scott?


>> JOYCE BENDER: We are a little behind.  I don't think we are going to make it, but I have to tell you about Scott.  I love Scott.  He is, I am so blessed to have him as a leader in our enterprise, and I'm going to let you tell everyone, Scott, how you first told me what you hoped you could do some day when you started, how many years ago was that?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: About 15 years ago, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: 15 years ago.  15 years, the Pirates haven't been in a World Series yet, Scott!  15 years ago, and for 15 years, he did great work for us, also, in our Bender Consulting Services, we find employment for people with disabilities.  But Scott, tell them what else you told me when you first joined the company, that you hoped could you do some day.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Absolutely.  15 years ago, I had a opportunity to talk to Joyce, I was looking for opportunities.  I have a background in some nonprofit organizations that work for the arthritis foundation of western Pennsylvania and best buddies, Pennsylvania and I worked with students with disabilities.  When I have the opportunity to talk to Joyce about opportunities within Bender Consulting, I said down the road I would love a opportunity to focus on students or young people with disabilities.  That is my passion.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Your passion, here it is.  Your dream came true.  He is very humble.  I want to tell you how this went down.  His wife Jan who I also love calls me and says, hey, would you meet with my husband, and you and your team, interview and help him with his resume', we said okay.  Then he came in and he never left.  We just kept him.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: That is true.  I never interviewed.  I showed up the next day and started working.  15 years later I'm still here.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Fastest, no interview hiring, there you go.


>> JOYCE BENDER: Would you share with our listeners what you do at the Bender Leadership Academy and what is the Bender Leadership Academy, which as you know, is so important to me, so go ahead.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Yeah, absolutely.  Thank you, Joyce, good afternoon, everyone.  The Bender Leadership Academy is a nonprofit organization which was started in 2018, and we deliver competency building programs that enables students with disabilities to engage in educational empowerment and work opportunities.  We celebrate successes and set career journey goals.  The goal is to increase long term competitive employment for youth with disabilities.  I am the manager of programs and partnerships.  What does that mean?  I help design and implement and coordinate our programs aligning with Bender Leadership Academy's mission and I help build and maintain relationships with community partners, identify new partners that complement the brand and mission and goals of the academy, and to get the word out there about Bender Leadership Academy.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes.  As I said, that is so important to me.  Scott, we have many things we work on at the academy, but how about some of our main programs, and by the way, you can include, of course, when you talk about all of this, Disability Mentoring Day.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Absolutely.  One of the programs that we focus on is called work readiness.  The purpose is to prepare students with disabilities for the world of work through a series of activities and employer based experiences, so we focus on fundamental skills assessment, we talk about dressing for success at work, resume' building, we do practice interviews, the students do presentations on public speaking, we work with employers and do workplace tours, and we have speakers come in from different companies to talk to students about their company, what they do, maybe how to learn how to get a job.  That is a wonderful program, we have been doing that for 8 or 9 years.

Another program that we have is, I call it certifications, it is to provide relevant employer values credentialed and basic computer competency and customer service.  We focus on self paced on‑line modules, they can learn about the Microsoft certifications, they learn about soft skills, interviewing skills, workplace expectations and basic customer service concepts.  Another program that we are starting this summer is digital access at work, and that is designed to keep digital accessibility, understanding and testing skills to students with disabilities.  They will talk about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and digital accessibility, testing methodologies and color contrast analyzers and the nonvisual desktop access.  It is a great program that we will be starting this summer.  You mentioned Disability Mentoring Day.  This is something that I've been working on for 15 years now with Joyce and Bender Consulting and this program moved over to Bender Leadership Academy last year, but Disability Mentoring Day is a national or international program that started in the Clinton administration, and I am the regional coordinator for western Pennsylvania and Delaware.

It's always the third Wednesday of every October, and we provide students insight to the multitude of varying career trajectories in the professional workforce.  We promote career development for high school students with disabilities to job shadowing and hands on exploration, companies will partner with Bender Leadership Academy to host students, and inspire them towards future success.  Last year we had over 400 high school students with disabilities participate in western Pennsylvania, and in Delaware.  We are hoping this year it will be bigger and better, and always two days prior to Disability Mentoring Day, we have this big party, big reception for all the disability leaders and business leaders here in western Pennsylvania, the students and teachers, all get together and celebrate Disability Mentoring Day.  This year it is going to be the same, looking forward to that.

The last program that I wanted to talk to you about, Joyce, was our student leader program.  That is where you will hear Taylor and Courtney who are part of the student leaders, who participated this school year, and that is to develop public speaking and leadership skills while learning how to represent one's self professionally in the workplace.  They focus on leadership initiatives, we talk about anti bullying, we do resume' building and interviewing skills, they do public speaking, each class, the students have to speak, do a presentation.  They do networking, and we have connections, workplace tours and speakers from our employer partners, and this is a wonderful program.  We had over 60 students I believe participate this school year which was fantastic.

>> JOYCE BENDER: It is fantastic.  Scott mentioned Delaware.  This started over 20 years ago, I started doing this on a volunteer basis, the Bender Leadership Academy.  It was as Scott said about how to get a job, leadership skills, and how to deal with bullying.  I want to tell you these kids with disabilities are bullied more than any other group in America.  You know what?  I love every one of them.  This is all about raising the bar, raising the bar, not lowering the bar.  Just so you know, these students with disabilities are rock stars.  You should hire young people with disabilities, because our graduates from that Bender Leadership Academy, I'd put them against any other employee, student, any day.  So, with that, actually we are going to speak to Taylor, Taylor Rodgers, 12th grade student, and just a joy to have in our program.  Taylor, welcome to the show.

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: Thank you.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Taylor, what did you, you attended the Bender Leadership Academy, but before we do that, tell everyone where do you go to school, Taylor?

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: I go to Central Valley High School.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You know that's in Pennsylvania, and in the Beaver area.  Taylor was just so awesome in the classes, and that is why we wanted her to come on the show today.  Taylor, what did you learn from the Bender Leadership Academy?

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: I think the most important thing that I learned from being Bender's student leader was taking initiative and having the ability to see what needs done and taking action to accomplish it.  I learned to always work hard and volunteer for new tasks, work extra hours when needed, so my tasks get done, get completed on time.  The administrating initiative shows my capacity to be a leader.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow.  Look at you, look at you!  You are speaking on the radio around the world.  You have come so far, young lady.  And that would you start off with initiatives, that is awesome.  That is awesome.  You certainly have demonstrated that.  Taylor, what did you enjoy the most in the program?

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: My favorite part was getting to meet new people from other schools, meeting the instructors and the guest speakers.  I enjoyed this experience because I learned a lot about being a leader.  I liked being able to win gift cards, which was like earning a paycheck for doing a good job, playing kahoots at the end of class helped me to reinforce what I learned in class.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Good, that's good.  What Taylor is talking about is, we try very hard in the Bender Leadership Academy to teach our students about the world of work.  We actually have these classes on site at a company.  We have the Beaver Valley School District, at Calgon Carbon, we have Pittsburgh public schools district at Highmark, Fox Chapel Highmark at Covestro.  And the students from Gateway, that is at Peoples, right, Scott?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Peoples Gas, correct.

>> JOYCE BENDER: The whole idea is going into a company, seeing what the business world is like, and the right attire and how you should act, and it is, thank you to all the companies in Delaware, it's DXC technology, and I gotta tell you, the teachers and we will be talking to one, are just the most dedicated, awesome people.

Let's move on first to Courtney, and Courtney Sullivan is in the 11th grade, and what school are you at, Courtney?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: I go to Central Valley High School as well.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Okay.  By the way, it's nice to talk to you and welcome to the show.

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: Thank you, it's nice talking to you as well.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Courtney, since you went to the Bender Leadership Academy, what was the biggest difference that you saw in yourself, from when you started to when you left?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: I believe that I have changed because of what I have learned, through my leadership skills that I have developed, I will stand up and be counted for, as a leader, I can and do make a difference, not only in my life, but in others' lives.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is awesome.  Courtney, what did you enjoy the most?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: I liked learning new things such as leadership empowerment, work ethic, success at work and public speaking.  Learning these things gives me more opportunities to communicate well.  I gain the knowledge that I will need when seeking employment.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Okay, I'm going to see if you two remember all of this, that there is something you do when people give you a hard time.  What do you use when you don't want to watch a TV station?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: Remote control.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That's it!  You change the channel.  You change the channel, when people are giving you a hard time or telling you mean things, and for all of you listening to this show, Courtney, do you, don't you believe if there are young people listening to you right now, and maybe they feel that they don't count and they don't matter, don't you think it's important also who they associate with?


>> JOYCE BENDER: Because can't those people have a bad impact on you?


>> JOYCE BENDER: Look at Courtney now.  She is so awesome, and she can deal with bullying, she knows how awesome, you know how I make all of you say how awesome you are, and you are all awesome.  Taylor, how about you?  We will move on to Miss Taylor Rodgers.  How have you seen yourself change the most since you left the class?  I mean, since you graduated.  Like for example, since you left the Bender Leadership Academy, what is the biggest difference, for example, do you think you are more confident now?

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: Not only more confident, until that being involved as a Bender student leader, I gained more confidence speaking in public, I feel that I can speak in more professional way, from all the lessons that I have learned, I know that I have the skills to interview for a job, and will have the ability to keep a job.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, I know you will also.  And you know, do you agree with me, what do you think it's like for most of those students, when I tell them, okay, you have to go up and give that two‑minute speech.

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: It's really hard sometimes.  Like scary.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Especially at the beginning, right?  Before the first time you go up.

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: Yeah.  The first time speaking in front of the class was definitely scary, because I've never spoken really in front of people like that.  It was like very, just overwhelming.

>> JOYCE BENDER: But you did it.

>> TAYLOR RODGERS: Yeah, but over time it got easier.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah.  Courtney, I wanted to ask Courtney, how about you, Courtney?  How would you describe, with all of the students, how they feel the first time they have to go up and speak in front of everyone, until they graduate, because I want to tell everyone, every single student goes up front in every class and give a two minute speech on such as how will I show initiative at work, or how will I deal with bullying or how will I be more independent, things of that nature, every class, every single student goes up and gives a speech, no exceptions because we are all about no pity.  And do you know what, you will not believe how good they are.  How about you, how would you describe that, Courtney, the difference from the first time a student goes up to the last time?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: My first time when I went up, I was nervous.  I could tell the other students were as well, because they said they didn't want to go first.  So yeah.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And, you know what, when we were talking earlier about the gift card, here is what that is all about.  Can you tell everyone what that is about, why do you get a gift card?

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: You get a gift card because you took initiative and you also go first.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That's right.

>> COURTNEY SULLIVAN: You also answer questions.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You also answer questions.  What is that all about is that, as she just said, all about initiative, and participating.  See, these are all things you have to do at work.  So if someone shows initiative, they receive a gift card to one of the restaurants, and why do I do that?  Because I'm trying to teach you, if you do a good job, you make more money.  That is the whole thing we are trying to teach the students.  I'm telling you, Scott, do you agree with me, that like they are unbelievable when they speak?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Absolutely.  You can tell the progression from being everybody nervous in class one to class six, they are doing better than most adults when speaking.  Not only are they speaking to the teachers and their peers, the students, but there is also executives in these classes as well, or representatives from different Fortune 500 companies.  They are speaking in front of them sometimes.  It's amazing transition from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, and I'm in awe of how great, especially Taylor and Courtney did a incredible job this year.

>> JOYCE BENDER: They did.  They were incredible.  We are going to be going to our newsbreak, which we have on the half hour, Advocacy Matters with Peri Jude Radecic.  Welcome to the show, Peri.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Joyce, thanks for having me.  It has been great to hear Taylor and Courtney talk about their experiences.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes.  Yeah, just so you both know, now Peri is the CEO of disability rights in Pennsylvania, which also I'm honored to be on that board, so there is another executive telling you, telling them what a great job they have done.

But before you go over your news for the week, Peri, you know a lot of students with disabilities fall through the cracks, and are not employed as the nondisabled are.  I wanted to have you mention also how important that is to include them.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Absolutely.  The employment of people with disabilities is really one of the most important things we can work on as an organization, and individually as advocates.

It's important to keep applying for jobs, and then there are support systems where individuals with disabilities can go to, to get legal advice or to learn more about their rights as an employee with disabilities or person applying for a job, that has a disability.

There is a whole support system out there to make sure that there is appropriate competitive and integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Which includes high school students with disabilities.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Absolutely includes high school students with disabilities, absolutely.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah.  Well, Peri, great to hear your voice and by the way, I hope all of you had a great Memorial Day weekend.  Peri, what news do you have for us today?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Sure, Joyce.  I want to talk about the American Rescue Plan again, but this time a specific section in the American Rescue Plan, because here is why it's so important.  There is now additional federal money for home and community‑based services available to all states through the American Rescue Plan.  We remember that the American Rescue Plan was the most recent COVID relief bill passed by congress and President Biden signed the law on March 11.  There are many sections to the law, but our focus today is on section 9817, 9817 of the American Rescue Plan.  If you want to read it, go to our website at and you can click on the text of the American Rescue Plan, be sure to go to section 9817.

This section provides states with an opportunity to get additional financial support for Medicaid funded home and community‑based services.  In particular, what it does is it will give states an additional 10 percent match to states funding.  It's called FMAP or federal medical assistance percentage.  It increases home and community based services money by 10 percent.  This is a great step forward and really provides the states with a lot of money.  To receive this increased percentage, this FMAP, states have to be eligible, but there is only two requirements, one, the states have to use the funds to supplement what is already going on with their home and community based spending, not use it instead of, but do more with it.

The second thing is the state has to implement or supplement one or more activities to enhance, expand or strengthen home and community‑based services.  That is really important.  You can't just use the money to do what you are currently doing, because of COVID, there has been some concerns about the state of home and community based services and how we can build capacity, and so this money could go for capacity building activities or more rebalancing in the system out of nursing homes and into homes.

Now states have until mid‑July to submit their home and community based services spending plans to CMS, center for Medicaid and Medicare services.  Here in Pennsylvania, we could receive up to 729 million more dollars, but the state has to submit its plan.  Advocacy Matters, advocates on a watch for opportunities to comment on their state plans for home and community based services under this American Rescue Plan.

If you want to know what your state might get, and if you want to follow this, go to, there is a policy brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, guidance from the center for Medicare and Medicaid services, all important information to keep track of what is happening in your state.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, that is awesome.  Once again, where do our listeners go to hear more about that, read about that?


>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: They go to

>> JOYCE BENDER: Then they go to Advocacy Matters.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Then they go to Advocacy Matters, it's on the home page.  Scroll down the home page and you will find today's link.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Great.  Peri, thank you so much.  We love how you keep everyone in the news, knowing what is going on in our community.  I will look forward to talking to you again soon.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Thank you, and congratulations to all the students.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Thank you.  With that, we are going to go to break.  And after we go to break, we will be back with Taylor Rodgers, Courtney Sullivan, Ms. Maryann Kostelic and Scott Hammerstrom, the manager of programs and partnerships from the Bender Leadership Academy.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where   "Disability Matters" at  We will be right back.  Don't go away.

>> News, opinions, your voice counts.  Call toll free 1‑866‑472‑5787.

>> At Highmark we believe what makes us different makes us better.  Our differences broaden our perspectives and foster diverse skills which complement each other creating a stronger and more vibrant workforce.  It's this belief that earned us recognition by the US BLN and American Association of People with Disabilities, as a 2014 Disability Equality Index best place to work.  We will continue to celebrate diverse individuals, because inclusion benefits us all.  To find out more, visit

>> Since 1985, Bender Consulting Services has served as a national leader advancing employment of people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, with private sector companies and federal government agencies.  Bender assists customers with achieving their diversity and workforce inclusion initiatives by tapping into a talent pool of individuals seeking professional positions, including those in the STEM fields, in addition, Bender services include disability employment consulting, training and technology accessibility through their high tech line of service.  For more information, please visit

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>> You are listening to  "Disability Matters," if you have a question or comment, call in toll free at 1‑866‑472‑5788.  Now please welcome back the host of   "Disability Matters," here is Joyce Bender.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hi, welcome back, everyone.  We are talking today about the Bender Leadership Academy, and that includes two graduates who are awesome, Taylor Rodgers and Courtney Sullivan, two awesome students with disabilities, and the transition coordinator, Maryann Kostelic and Scott Hammerstrom, the manager of programs and partnerships from our own Bender Leadership Academy.

So I have not yet talked to the wonderful Miss Maryann Kostelic, who is just the most awesome dedicated person, she is a transition coordinator, but of course to me a student, so, I mean a teacher, so welcome to the show.

>> MARYANN KOSTELIC: Thank you, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: I'm sure you have seen changes in all of the students, Courtney and Taylor being examples, over the years as they graduated from the Bender Leadership Academy.  What would you say are some of the biggest areas of growth?  After they graduate.

>> MARYANN KOSTELIC: I think the girls touched on it, Joyce already, about being nervous, and they were nervous because public speaking was involved in this class, along with meeting students from other districts.  But as the program goes on, I see a willingness to participate by not being afraid to answer questions, they make comments, they offer their opinions, which is great.

I can tell from watching their eyes, as you are speaking or any of the guest hosts that they are absorbing all this information that you were discussing during the lessons.  I see their comfort level increases, and them volunteering to go first on assignments or speeches.  The other thing I see growth in is they are encouraging other students from other schools to be comfortable in the class with these students.  They are excited, I see their confidence is growing, and the most important to me is their pride.  They have self‑pride now.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That's right.  Yes.  I agree with you.  You know very well from the beginning to the end, how many high school students with disabilities that we see blossom, and actually change, and sometimes even their families talk about how they have changed and gained so much confidence, and as you said, self‑esteem.  Would you agree with that?

>> MARYANN KOSTELIC: Absolutely.

>> JOYCE BENDER: I wanted to talk just for a minute, because we talk a lot in these classes about bullying, and as I said, high school and middle school students with disabilities, grade school, are bullied more than any other kids, any students in America.  If you are listening to the show, especially if you are a parent, you gotta be getting it together with these, watching the friends, watching social media, and for the students, I tell them, don't listen, block people, if they are giving you a hard time.  But most importantly, you can't let that control you.  You know, it's you, it's you.  You young people, it's all about you, not what other people say about you.

I can't stress to you enough how wonderful these young people are, but Scott, just one minute, of course, the way people look at people, all people with disabilities, when they do not want to hire them, where they do lower the bar, is because of stigma.  I wondered if you would take a minute to talk about our Slaughter Stigma Campaign.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Yeah, absolutely, Joyce.  Slaughter stigma is one [inaudible] at the Leadership Academy, you are very good friends with Karin Slaughter who is a best selling mystery author, selling millions and millions of books, and you two got together and partnered with each other and to bring awareness and propose action to end stigma of all people, including people with disabilities, and if you go to our website, which is Bender, so you can learn all about our program.  You can also take the slaughter stigma pledge, and what it is, we want to create a better world through our words and our actions.  We are not going to stop until stigma no longer creates barriers to opportunity and inclusion.  You go on there, take this pledge, it will take you less than a minute to do.  That helps get the word out there about this, and we need this, and it's a great program.  We have a lot of students and other people who have taken that pledge.  Go to our website,

>> JOYCE BENDER: As Scott said, Karin Slaughter, as a matter of fact, the movie is coming out soon on Net Flix, pieces of her, which is one of her books, but she is like a crime thriller author, and just the most wonderful person.  The main character who is the protagonist, who catches the bad guys, is living with dyslexia, Will, and that is so impressive to me that she would have this profiler as a person with a disability, the good guy.  We became friends over ten years ago, and one day I'm sitting there thinking, stigma, slaughter stigma.  I wonder if Karin would let us use that, and go into this with us.  If you go to, you will see Karin Slaughter talking about this.  You have got to take that slaughter stigma pledge, and you have got to tell everyone you know to take the slaughter stigma pledge, if you care about these young people with disabilities, dealing with bullying, dealing with people that lower the bar.  You have got to go do it.  Slaughter stigma pledge.  And one other thing, my very close friend, many of you may know, Linda Dickerson passed away, and it was devastating for me when this happened last year, because Linda and I were friends for such a long time, brilliant woman, on the board of Carnegie‑Mellon, chair of the Pittsburgh ballet, chair of so many things.  I absolutely loved her and she had a significant, very significant disability.  When she passed away, I said, you know what, we are going to have a scholarship fund called the Linda Dickerson scholarship fund.  Scott, would you mind sharing that, telling that story to everyone, what that is?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Absolutely.  We started this Linda Dickerson scholarship last October.  Our program Disability Mentoring Day, students who participated in Disability Mentoring Day, they were eligible to, they had to fill out a application with a essay question and send it in.  We gave three scholarships away of $500.  And then the word got around and Highmark heard about this, and they were fantastic, said we are going to match that, and so the three students who won last year received $1000 scholarship.  This is money that you can use for, not everybody goes to college or university, they go to different trade schools or even for employment, if you need to get dress clothes for work or a laptop, whatever you need the money to help you with employment, in bettering yourself, that is what you can use that for.

It went fantastic.  This year we have expanded that.  We are going to give up to ten scholarships of $1000.  That is a lot of money.  Any student who participates in any of our Bender Leadership Academy, so it could be the work readiness program or student leaders programs, Disability Mentoring Day, certifications program, any one of those students would be eligible for that.  Then we are going to announce the winners, they will be announced earlier but we are going to announce them at our Disability Mentoring Day reception in October in front of 150, 200 people who are going to be in attendance, there is going to be business leaders there, and community leaders, disability leaders, and we will announce the names of the winners at that time as well.  But we are so excited that we are going to give up to ten scholarships this year, expanding this.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is so exciting.  That is so exciting.  Listen,, if you are listening to the show, when you make that slaughter stigma pledge, please make a donation, go to our website, to the donate button, because everything helps.  I don't care what it is.  Everything helps.  We are 100 percent behind these young people living with disabilities, who are sometimes brutally bullied, and left out of the world of work.  Thank goodness we have these great students.

Miss Maryann Kostelic, what do you think about the public speaking skills of your students?

>> MARYANN KOSTELIC: Well, I think that this is probably the one area that we see the most improvement over the classes that they attend.  In the beginning they are nervous, they are unsure of themselves.  But after participating in Bender leadership, they become more aware of what is expected in public speaking, I think, and they develop their own strategies to even overcome the anxiety of public speaking.  I see that they are apprehensive levels, or they lessen as classes go on.  I think they shine during this program and it transfers over to a typical school day for them.  They have much more confidence and a lot comes from having to present these speeches publicly.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, I will say the more that you develop good communication skills, the better chance you have not only to gain employment, but to move up in the company, because trust me, there are millions of business people in America that would not want to get up and do this public speaking the way these high school students do.

As Scott mentioned, in 1999 is the year I received the President's award at the White House from President Clinton, and that is when I met Jonathan Young, because he was handling disability issues and worked at the White House for the President.  One day he called me and said, you know what, Joyce, we need a day, we need a day, a national day that would be for our community.  So he came up with Disability Mentoring Day.  And we were, we and my group in Delaware were the first to participate in Disability Mentoring Day, other than D.C. and of course the White House.  Now it has so taken off over the years.

Scott, how many people participated again in disability ‑‑

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Last year, we had over 400 high school students participate and about five different counties in western Pennsylvania and plus the City of Pittsburgh.

>> JOYCE BENDER: What they do is, they go to companies, and job shadow from maybe like 9 to 1 or something of that nature, and they have been assigned mentors.  It is the most wonderful program.  It really is.  At how many companies did you say, and by the way, this was in the Pittsburgh region.

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: We had over 25 companies who participated.  So not only the mentoring, you want to know a little about the company, if you think about a bank, you think of a bank teller, but there are so many other types of positions and things that the banks do, that students get to learn, sometimes you never knew about.  It's a wonderful opportunity.  We work with a lot of science companies and they do a lot of science experiments as well, that get students interested in STEM as well.  It's a incredible experience for the students to participate in this.

>> JOYCE BENDER: I want to tell you how wonderful people are in the community.  We have, as Scott said, well, first of all, Disability Mentoring Day is the third Wednesday every October, every October, is Disability Mentoring Day, that third Wednesday.  But on the Monday of that week, we have an event at the Heinz history center where we have these great students speak, and it is beautiful.  We have students and we have business people and we have AAPD, who by the way AAPD is the national coordinator and as you know, Ted Kennedy Junior is the chair and I'm the Vice‑Chair, and Maria Town is our CEO, and so Maria comes and our county executive comes, and sometimes the Senator Casey comes, and we always have a speaker, a very well‑known speaker from D.C. to come up here and speak or elsewhere in the United States on disability issues, someone very prominent nationally.

How amazing it is, how companies sponsor that.  Isn't that right, Scott?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: Absolutely.  The highlight as you mentioned were always the students speakers, we have four or five speakers each year, some of them from our student leaders class, and that will come up and speak, and again that is everything that we hear as far as feedback is about the speakers, student speakers.  Last year, we had a gentleman who did a whole continuum of service from Disability Mentoring Day, student leaders program, participated in the work readiness program, and then he went off to college and got a engineering degree, and then came back, he had a disability, he had a tough time finding employment, he went through Bender Consulting and we were able to find him employment.  Then he did a great job and just got hired by Fed Ex, and so we are very proud of Dominik, that he is a success story, and Joyce, if you want to share more about Dominik, but that was a key ‑‑ he was a junior in high school, I believe.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes.  He stayed in touch with me from that date on, and Dominik Nickels, you are awesome.  We have had so many wonderful students over the years from different schools, from Caitlyn Moore to Gwen Jackson to Olivier Stevenson to Stacey Forest, I can't even remember all the people that have been speakers or Sam Miller award winners, young friend of mine that died by bullycide, and we honor him by giving an award to a student that really stands up as a leader for other students that are going through the same thing.

But I know we are coming to the end of the show.  Scott, do you want to give a shout out to your other two teammates that work with you?

>> SCOTT HAMMERSTROM: I do.  I do.  I want to say thank you and shout out to Carol Roth and I believe who is listening and Barney Reuben, these two are so passionate about our Bender Leadership Academy and the program, and the students, and they do incredible job, and so thank you guys, and we are looking forward to expanding the programs and getting more students with disabilities as we move forward in the next year.

>> JOYCE BENDER: All right, thank you, everyone.  And we end every show with a quote.  And today that quote is:  Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, said Nelson Mandela.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at  Hey, see you next week with Japan.  Talk to you then.

  (end of program at 1:57 p.m. CST)


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