New Chief Program Officer: First Thoughts

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Joni Schmalzried

Since officially beginning my job as the new Chief Program Officer on January 2, the words independence, inclusion and potential have taken on new meaning. Even though I have worked for 35 years in the field of disability and always supported those words in an educational setting, my new position allows me to see how they play out in everyday life.

From my current vantage point, I am seeing every day how the word “community” is what brings each of those powerful words to fruition. As we build independence in our students, we are molding independent adults. As we raise our expectations and help students achieve their full potential, we are increasing opportunities in the workforce. As we work to create inclusive environments in our schools, we are leading individuals and families to expect inclusive communities.

Each grantee I am able to meet, each program I am able to visit, and each community member I interact with reaffirms that we are truly heading in the right direction. If we continue to honor and respect the potential of all individuals across the lifespan, we will continue to build schools, programs, and communities inclusive of all. I am excited to be starting my adventure with AWS Foundation and Northeast Indiana, and look forward to working with you.