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News MRC's Inaugural Explore Possibility Summit a Success

The event fostered a learning environment for attendees, offering diverse workshops to help them understand resources, services, and tools that were available from MRC and our statewide partners
8/24/2022
  • Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
two women embrace and smile at the camera

The very first guest for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's (MRC) Inaugural Explore Possibility Summit arrived slightly before 8:00 a.m. at the Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. By 8:30 a.m., the lobby was buzzing with hundreds of other individuals with disabilities, their families, MRC providers, government agencies, and MRC staff as attendees came together to learn more about services and celebrate the community’s collective resiliency. The Summit brought together members of the disability community and allies in person for the first time since the pandemic. People were able to meet with experts, see the future of job training with virtual reality, take part in professional networking, and even have professional headshots taken. It was designed by and made specifically for the disability community.  

"I'm so thrilled with how the Summit went," said Amanda Baczko, MRC's Director of Individual and Family Engagement, who led the way in planning the event. "We were so fortunate to connect our agency with the people we serve. We put a lot of thought into the topics, activities, providers, and speakers for the Summit, and we received great feedback throughout the day. It's exciting to be able to offer an event like this and create a safe and engaging space for people with disabilities.”  

The day began with Commissioner Toni Wolf welcoming guests and sharing remarks about what the Summit meant to MRC and the community. "One word comes to mind when I think about today, and that is magical. We are here to focus on our resilience, to celebrate one another, continue to learn from one another, and work together as we make Massachusetts more inclusive," she said.   

Jazz composer, teacher, musician, and keynote speaker Matt Savage spoke to the audience about his experience living as a person with autism and being a piano savant as a child. "When I was a child, loud noises made me uncomfortable," he shared with the audience. When Matt turned six, he started to play the piano and found that "music started to really open me up to the outside world. To have a visual representation of a piano key match the pitch of a note, it helped me grow into music." At seven, he started playing jazz, inspired by piano greats like Thelonious Monk. "It was hard for me to stop, and since then, the piano has always been a part of my life."  

"It's been a pleasure and privilege to teach this type of music. Some may think that music jobs for people with disabilities may be difficult. But the arts are therapeutic and essential," Matt concluded before playing an original piece for the 500 people in attendance.  

The event fostered a learning environment for attendees, offering diverse workshops to help them understand resources, services, and tools that were available from MRC and our statewide partners.  

Alison Scher, an MRC employee who has received MRC services, shared that she loved the energy in the room. "I've been with the agency for more than 20 years, and I've been to previous conferences, and this one was the best."  

To some like, Destiny Lomonte, an MRC disability inclusion leader, it was a relief to feel included. "I felt welcomed, and it was because we were all one community," she said. There were people there with many disabilities, and everyone embraced one another. I didn't feel alone or that I stuck out in a crowd. It felt natural and easy for me to ask for accommodations."  

"I was able to chat with people who had just joined the MRC community," said Brendan Shea, who also attended the Summit. "It was a great opportunity for them to see and meet other people who use services. There was someone who had questions about securing rides and mobility. They talked to other people who use wheelchairs and me, and we were able to give him advice, which is different from when you meet with a vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor. You're meeting with your peers."  

"I'm so happy with how the event was structured and laid out," said Amanda. "And I'd be lost without the support of the Summit's Planning Committee. It was a truly collaborative effort to make sure we were thoughtful about the day. I also want to send a huge thank you to the team at the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts. They are experts in event planning and were essential in helping us find a venue, event registration, and support."  

The day ended with a panel featuring people with lived experiences sharing their stories. George Farrington, a brain injury survivor, said one of his strategies to excel in his personal and work life is how he has learned to change the way he thinks about who he is. "I've learned I have different abilities, not disabilities," he shared.  

Joey Buizon, the Supervisor of Employment Services at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, shared that he's proud to be a part of the disability community. "I'm a professional with a disability, a parent with a disability, and I'm proud to be a part of the community. We can continue to make an impact by working together." 

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission 

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) helps individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. MRC is responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation, Community Living, and Disability Determination for federal benefit programs.
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