Press Release

Press Release  Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Board Begin Terms

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  • Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council

Media Contact   for Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Board Begin Terms

Jackson Crilley, Communications Coordinator

A collage of 4 images: a woman with a black suit smiling in front of the State House, a man with a white shirt smiling at a desk, a woman wearing a beige tank top smiling in front of a bright window, and a woman with a white shirt and jacket smiling at a desk in front of a microphone.

QUINCY, Mass — The Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council’s 4 new officers officially began their terms on the executive board of the Council on Sunday, October 1st. Elections were held at MDDC’s September Council Meeting on Wednesday, September 13th.  

Along with the election, Council members heard updates from MDDC staff on projects and initiatives. The following individuals were elected to office: 

RAQUEL QUEZADA – MDDC Chair (2 year term) 

Raquel Quezada is from the Dominican Republic and is a mother of 4 children - one with Cerebral Palsy and another medically complex. She is an avid advocate in the Latino community, but also for all Massachusetts families and wherever else her support is needed. Previously, Quezada was a Boston Children’s Hospital LEND program fellow from 2017-18, an Allen C. Crocker fellow from 2018-19, and a student studying Psychology. She is experienced in Communications, Radio, and TV Production in her home country of the Dominican Republic and has authored 9 books. 

Equipped with the knowledge, compassion, and care of a mother of a child with a disability and with education on different types of disabilities and situations, Quezada created and began hosting the local radio and TV program “Cambiando El Mundo de Personas con Discapacidades” (Changing the World of People with Disabilities.) Quezada’s overall mission is to educate, inform, and share knowledge on what information and resources are available for people with special needs, and provide a place where other families can come and share their experiences. 

“The most important of all is to be available and use the platform I have to help others that don’t know where to start,” said Quezada. 

In her show, Quezada talks about all topics that can help disability communities. Different organizations, public and private businesses and companies are brought on to share information about different programs and to showcase any products or technology that can benefit people with special needs. 


JONATHAN GARDNER – MDDC Vice Chair (1 year term)

Jonathan Gardner is a self-advocate, decision-maker, home school graduate, and cancer survivor who happens to have Autism. On top of his work as a Council Member of the Massachusetts Developmental Disability Council, Gardner is an official Ambassador for Operation House Call through the Arc of Massachusetts, a Flutie Fellow for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, the Co-Chair for Massachusetts Supported Decision-Making Coalition and a proud Board member of Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Outside of his work in disability advocacy, Gardner enjoys video games, Pro Wrestling, anime, and providing help within his communities. Since the age of 13, Jonathan’s vision has always been to help others in any way he can. Jonathan has many different types of support and supporters that help him live his best life. Jonathan uses his passion from his own life experiences to support, encourage, and provide a genuine positive impact on all around him. 


SANDRA HELLER – MDDC Member at Large (2 year term) 

Sandra Heller has worked in the field of developmental disabilities for over 30 years.  She currently serves as Associate Executive Director of Nemasket Group Inc. and directs the Southeastern Medically Complex Program, providing information/referrals, advocacy, and funding management for families with children and adults with developmental disabilities that are medically complex.  She also serves as Chairperson for Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change and supports the planning and development of the Southeastern Family Leadership Series.

Sandra has a tremendous passion and experience, facilitating classes and workshops on such topics as Supported Decision Making, Estate Planning, Legislative Advocacy, and Person-Centered Planning.  Ms. Heller is also an Ambassador for Charting the LifeCourse.  Ms. Heller has provided extensive testimony at legislative hearings on important disability issues for many years and will continue to offer and advocate for the rights to live, love, and belong in our society and have the “good things in life” that all deserve. Her most rewarding role is as a parent.

As the mother of a 34-year-old man born with Down Syndrome and complex medical needs, Sandra has always focused on him enjoying and being fully included in life, from school to working since age 16, to moving to his own home over 8 years ago. Person-centered planning and Supported Decision Making have been invaluable tools that help his family and friends on his journey.  Sandra is also the proud mother of two adult daughters and grandmother to two beautiful young boys.  

ALANA RUSSO – MDDC Secretary (1 year term) 

Alana Russo grew up in Billerica and now lives independently in an apartment in Bedford. She is an alumna of The Cotting School from which she graduated in 2003 with Honors. In addition to receiving numerous academic achievements and awards, she also served as Class Vice President, was the Captain of the Cheerleading Squad, wrote for the School Newspaper, ran track, and played softball.

Russo continued her education at Middlesex Community College’s Transition Program, graduating in 2006 at the top of her class and as Student of the Year. She received numerous scholarships and awards for her Middlesex education. She has served in numerous organizations, such as Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Northeast Independent Living Program and she currently sits on the Tenant Board for the Bedford Housing Authority. She has also been a part of the Special Olympics in cheerleading, soccer, and bowling. 

Alana loves reading, doing puzzles, scrapbooking, traveling, baking, cooking, dancing, and hanging out with friends from the social club she belongs to, Springboard. Alana has a younger brother Domenic, who is a lawyer and works for the United States Government. 


Media Contact   for Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Board Begin Terms

  • Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council 

    The MDDC is an independent agency, funded by the federal government, dedicated to empowering people with developmental disabilities and their families to enjoy full productive lives by promoting self-sufficiency, community inclusion & opportunity.
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