WI LEND Adds Family and Disability Advocacy Peer Mentors to Training Team

May 5, 2022

WI LEND, located at the Waisman Center UCEDD, introduced a new staff role of Peer Mentor at the beginning of the new grant funding cycle. Ida Winters and Stasia Wilson, both recent graduates of the WI LEND program, were hired to fill the roles of Family Peer Mentor and Disability Advocacy Peer Mentor, respectively. “Ida and Stasia were both standout trainees, and we are so excited to add them both to our staff,” said the Training Director, Gail Chödrön. “WI LEND has had trainees and staff in the family discipline for over 15 years, and added self-advocacy trainees 10 years ago. With the addition of Peer Mentors, we continue to expand family and self-advocate representation in our program.” Peer Mentors check in with family and self-advocate trainees throughout their LEND training experience, expanding the circles of mentorship and support around trainees in these disciplines.

Ida Winters is a Community Health Worker and a mother of three. She brings a wealth of lived experience and connections from her work in her community and also as a parent to her children with special health care needs. Ida joined WI LEND in 2020 as a Fellow in the family discipline from the Milwaukee-link satellite location. She is excited to continue working with LEND trainees of all disciplines as she mentors her peers in the family discipline. “It is important to have a family member and person of color in a peer mentor role because it diversifies the space and helps others see that there is someone else involved in the program that they may be able to connect with and/or relate to on a personal level. Someone who may have similar experiences and similar cultural beliefs,” said Ida. “As a Black woman and mother, I am proud to take on a role that allows me to be their ‘cheerleader in the back’, helping them along their journey as future family leaders and letting them know that they do belong here in this space.”

Stasia Wilson is a talented artist and fierce disability advocate. She is proud to be the first WI LEND trainee who exclusively uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device for verbal communication. “I hope that I have shown that people can accomplish significant achievements, no matter how severe the disabilities are,” said Stasia. “Having a self-advocate involved in LEND inherently teaches others about patience and empathy. I enjoy mentoring other self-advocates by checking in on them and supporting and advising them on their goals.” Stasia joined WI LEND as a Fellow in the self-advocacy discipline in 2019. She was inspired to apply after realizing how much she enjoyed mentoring children who use AAC devices through the Waisman Center Communication Aids and Systems Clinic. Stasia was able to build on her experiences from mentoring others as part of her practicum during her LEND experience and will continue to do so in her role as a Peer Mentor.

 “Because they were recently trainees themselves, Ida and Stasia really understand what it’s like to navigate the program, and I think they really help trainees feel more included. They have also provided valuable input on recruitment, retention, and training strategies—it’s now hard to imagine the team without them,” said Gail.

Read more about WI LEND and what other program graduates are doing by clicking here.