- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Media Contact for Celebrating SRC's Dr. Dawn Clark
Nick Pizzolato, Digital Communication Coordinator
For more than a decade, Reverend Dr. Dawn Clark has used her voice as a life-long advocate for people experiencing disabilities as the chair of the Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). The council partners with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to help ensure that people with disabilities are provided with an equal opportunity to receive the programs, services and supports needed to gain competitive integrated employment. Clark isn’t going that far, she will continue to advise the SRC in her role as Disability Representative, as Inez Canada has transitioned into the role of Committee Chair.
“I want to thank Dawn Clark, whose may years of leadership laid a foundation for the work the SRC is accomplishing today.” Canada said recently. “Dawn selected Committee Chairs who bring passion and leadership to the tasks the Council undertakes.”
Ten years ago, Clark, who was born with cerebral palsy, was asked to fill out a nomination form to join the SRC. Soon after she received word that Governor Deval Patrick had appointed her to the council.
This appointment made sense because Clark believes she's one of the first people MRC helped in the mid-1960s. New work as a member of the SRC was going to be trying, but she had no qualms about working hard because that's how her mother raised her.
"She was the one who did exercises with me every day for 18 years," Clark remembered. "I went to camp. I was a girl scout. I was involved with church youth groups and took dance lessons." She remembered that it was her physical therapist who recommended MRC to her.
Dawn didn't let anything slow her down, earning her BA in history from Ricker College, a ME, Master of Divinity with an emphasis in pastoral care from Boston University, and her Doctorate in Ministry from Bangor Theological Seminary.
For the last decade she has worked in the City of Worcester's Accessibility Office, assisting the Director with the Accessibility Advisory Commission, coordinating tours of city hall to people who experience disabilities and their allies, and working with volunteers presenting Disability Etiquette Training Workshops for city staff and community groups.
During her time with SRC, she's seen MRC take steps moving forward to break free of the title "best-kept secret." "To say that," commenting on the phrase, "is tough. But things have been changing for the better, and the work continues."
She added that recently MRC has been hiring talented people, which has helped the positive growth. "There was a time that change was slow, and it was frustrating because it was challenging to get people excited about the SRC."
But she's excited about the relationship now between the Council and the Commission. "Commissioner Wolf gives clear updates on programs and initiatives, and we have a better sense of what's going on."
"We have a single mission and vision in mind. And even though we came from different perspectives – our goal is to get these people jobs."
For the future, Dr. Clark wants to see the stigma around hidden disabilities disappear and focus on reaching constituents most in need of services in underserved areas.
"More people are being diagnosed with mental health and learning disabilities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it's not easy for people to disclose these types of disabilities. I hope that the MRC/SRC partnership continues to find new ways to help these people break into the workforce. People like me need to feel comfortable and live independently."