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meet the council

black and white photo of blaise wearing a button up, smiling

Blaise Bryant, Chair

Pronouns: He/Him

Blaise Bryant is the Council Chair for the Young Leaders and Advocates Network (YLAN). Blaise is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the YLAN Council which reports directly to the Board of Directors for the Western NY Independent Living Center (WNYIL). He lives in the capital region and is the Communications and Outreach Associate at Consumer Directed Choices. In this position, Blaise promotes the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) Program through social media, outreach events, and fields incoming calls from people interested in receiving homecare. Blaise is also an avid podcaster, hosting shows from his daily history podcast, disability rights, and Baseball.

Elizabeth facing forward, smiling

Elizabeth Mccormick, vice Chair

Pronouns: She/Her

Elizabeth, who also goes by Liz, serves as the YLAN Council’s Vice Chair. Originally from Niagara Falls, NY, Liz is currently attends college at University at Albany, NY working on both a B.A. in Public Policy and a Master in Public Administration. Born with cerebral palsy, Liz has a passion for disability advocacy and hopes to enter the disability rights field after she graduates.

marc rosen holding a microphone with his fist in the air

Marc rosen, treasurer

Pronouns: He/They

Marc R. Rosen serves as YLAN’s Treasurer.  He has been active in youth and disability rights advocacy for nearly 20 years and is in law school.  He plans to practice special education law after he finishes law school.

Kaitlyn smiling at the camera

Kaitlyn O’dell, Secretary

Pronouns: She/Her

Kaitlyn O’Dell is the secretary of YLAN and enjoys her coffee with cream and sugar. She has been in the human services industry for multiple years. She has worked as a Behavioral Specialist and Youth Peer Advocate for Astor Services for Children and Families. She currently works at Hudson Valley Community Services as a Peer Navigator for their hepatitis C program in their education and prevention department. She engages with others on their syringe exchange program van and services. She also works for People USA as a Peer Advocate at her county’s crisis stabilization center. Kaitlyn recognizes herself as someone in recovery from substance use and mental health issues and is currently working towards her CRPA and Peer Certification.

Ketrina “Trina” Hazell

Pronouns: She/Her

Ketrina (“Trina”) Hazell is the former Ms. Wheelchair NY 2018. She resides in Brooklyn, NY. Hazell’s platform is to bring self-advocacy into schools and make them more inclusive. A strong self-advocate, motivational speaker, blogger and college student, Hazell graduated from Partners in Policymaking in 2014. Hazell is the founder of her own advocacy group called Voices of Power. She is affiliated with many disability-related organizations. Hazell serves on many disability related councils.

In January 2020 Hazell began working for the Regional Center for Workforce Transformation (RCWT) as the self-advocacy lead for Region 4 in NYC. This RCWT is one of several RCWTs that are regional collaborations between service providers, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), people who receive services and other stakeholders in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The RCWTs are coordinated by the New York Alliance for Inclusion & Innovation (New York Alliance) through funding provided by New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

Hazell is very involved in her local community. She has volunteered as a tutor with Reading Partners and as an assistant with ADAPT Community Network, which is the leading human service not-for-profit and a pioneer in providing cutting edge programs and services for people with disabilities in New York. Hazell has supported its mission in several capacities. Hazell also has been a guest writer for YAI (Young Adult Institute)’s Self-Advocacy Newsletter. YAI supports more than 20,000 people in the I/DD Community in the NY/NJ area, and offers more than 300 programs for people of all ages.

Hazell’s motto is to make disability visible, empower others to discover their voices, and give hope to families in the disability community through sharing her journey.

Melanie Hecker

Pronouns: She/Her

Melanie Hecker is a 27 year old autistic woman from Albany, New York. A lifelong disability advocate, Melanie Hecker has experience in the mental health, developmental disability, special education and independent living systems. From 2014-2017, Melanie Hecker was employed as the Systems Advocate of Youth Power. She has also interned at Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, Disability Rights New York, and the New York State Council on Children and Families. Melanie currently works as a Research and Training Assistant for Center for START Services.
Melanie possess extensive committee experience. These include being the first Current Student Representative on the Post-Secondary Advisory Council for Students with Disabilities to the New York State Board of Regents, as well as involvement in the New York State Independent Living Council Youth Subcommittee, Office of Mental Health Transition Age Youth Workgroup, Navigating Multiple Systems Content Workgroup, Albany County Democratic Disability Caucus, and Capitol Region ADAPT. Disability inclusion in the Jewish community is a specialty area of Melanie’s. She is the co-chair of her synagogue’s inclusion committee and participates in the Ruderman Inclusion Initiative. Melanie also travels the country speaking about autism, mental health and disability. In 2019 she was awarded Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley’s Beacon Leadership Award.
Melanie has recently graduated with her master’s degree in Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany. At UAlbany, she was Vice President of the university’s chapter of Delta Alpha Pi Disability Honor Society. UAlbany is also where she received her BA in Public Policy in 2019 during the university’s combined BA/MPA program. She received her AS is Human Services from Hudson Valley Community College in 2016.

Mica smiling at camera

Mica Gonzalez

Pronouns: She/Her

 As the former Central Regional Youth Partner for YOUTH POWER!, Mica used her lived experience as a peer to provide training and technical assistance to youth serving agencies and Youth Peer Advocates in 20 counties of the Central New York area. She served on various boards including the Regional Interagency Technical Assistance Team as both a member and Chair. Additionally, she served a year on the State Rehabilitation Council as a board member and served on the Policy committee to minimize barriers to those eligible (and who were currently receiving services) for ACESS-VR.

Recently, Mica graduated with her Bachelors in Social Work from Syracuse University in 2020. She also earned her Associates in Human Services with a specialization in Social Work from Onondaga Community College in 2013. Currently, she is the Coordinator of the Central Region Addiction Resource Center (CRARC) covering Madison, Cortland, Onondaga, Cayuga and Oswego counties. Prior to that position she was a Community Development Specialist for the Central Region Prevention Resource Center, where she worked with coalitions across 13 counties of Central NY to bring effective substance use prevention strategies. She is passionate about strengthening intersectional approaches to best serve individuals and systems. Most importantly, as someone who identifies as Queer, it’s important to her that LGBTQ people are adequately served, understood and respected in their identities.  

Mica lives in the Syracuse area with her partner, two cats (Malcolm and Lucy) and pug (Penelope). She loves being outside. She is creative and spends her free time painting and writing poetry. She will be returning to Syracuse University in January to start her Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Keelyn smiling at camera holding her dog

Keelyn Kiernan

Pronouns: She/Her

Keelyn’s story starts off with her being adopted at a young age. Her loving family would give her the strength to seek help when the time came. Later in life Keelyn would use what she learned in recovery and also her own experiences to help those around her. Keelyn’s passion for helping those in need stems from watching her mother as a social worker. Being a social worker is Keelyn’s long term goal and she plans on working on getting her degree.

xavier wearing a tie and button up smiling at the camer

Xavier Skeeter

Pronouns: He/Him

Xavier is a founding member of the Rensselaer County Youth Advisory Council, Voices of Youth Advisors (VOYA). He has been a member since 2014. Xavier has attended many youth leadership events and goes to a program of Rensselaer County Arc since 2014. Xavier is a member of Macedonia Baptist Church in Albany, NY.

Rae smiling at camera

Rae Toussaint

Pronouns: She/Her

Have you ever come across someone and just thought, “how did they manage to get where they are?” Each time Rae gets the look, she can’t help but be herself and tell them the answer right then and there. Then, it turns into a shock because they could not believe that Rae would do that. Rae believes its fun to show people her personality because she can’t help but bring this aura with her that makes her want to say hi to everyone. Rae works to keep achieving leadership opportunities each year. Actively volunteering and being a Board member for over five non-profit organizations that deal with foster care means a lot to Rae. She genuinely loves to help her community.

Peer Allies & Ex Officio Members

Included on our Council are veterans and peer allies to the youth movement who support us in achieving our mission. These members not only bring years of experience with youth advocacy and leadership. They also shine the light on the career ladder for young people in our network as they continue on their advocacy journeys.

Stephanie orlando smiling at camera
Stephanie Orlando
Emily Ladau smiling at the camera
Emily Ladau

Interested in Joining the council?

We are seeking motivated young people ages 18-30 who self-identify as having a disability to join our team.
You must be able to meet for at least 1.5-2 hours a month, have access to email, and be able to travel independently.

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