“The disabled population simply has a different way of functioning. They’re not lesser than other individuals; we must embrace their uniqueness just as we would anyone else’s,” says Kendra Niziak, Resources for Human Development’s Urban Youth Collaborative Peer Leader.

Niziak became involved with the nonprofit organization in June of 2017, working one-on-one with developmentally disabled individuals in a residential home. She led activities that focused on harnessing the creative capacity of individuals. “Music and art have been so important to me throughout my life, so it was amazing to share that with the individuals and see the joy it brought them.”

That summer, Niziak also worked to design and build a universally accessible miniature golf course for the residents. This allowed individuals to experience a physical activity that they traditionally would not have been able to because of their differences. “One thing that struck me when I began working with the disabled population was the lack of outdoor activities I could bring the individuals to take part in, and that’s what inspired me to construct the golf course,” shares Niziak. She believes it is important that, as a society, we consider the accessibility of all people in the design of everything ranging from movie theatres to phone applications.

In June of 2019, Niziak’s responsibilities expanded as she was awarded the opportunity to serve as a peer leader for the program. With this role, she led a cohort of interns, worked at numerous residential homes in the greater Boston area, organized a myriad of company events, and contributed to Outside the Lines studio, a day-program specializing in creative endeavors for the developmentally disabled.

This experience culminated with an invitation to speak at the Massachusetts State House. “I remember visiting the State House on field trips as a child, so it was truly an honor to speak there,” explains Niziak, “I hope that sharing my experience in this field of work compelled politicians to address the fundamental value, dignity, and needs of unique individuals.”

This winter, while on break from the University of Rhode Island, where she is pursuing a degree in Communication Studies, Niziak is happy to continue her work at the residential home she originally began working in. She is grateful for the chance to make a positive impact in these individuals’ lives and hopes to inspire like-minded young men and women to consider a career in human services.