Brenda Liz Muñoz

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Brenda Liz Munoz

Brenda Liz (Bren) Muñoz

Center for Leadership in Disability
Georgia State University, GA

Brenda Liz (Bren) Muñoz is a 2015-2017 State of Georgia Governor Appointed Council Member with Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), as well as a 2015-2016 Diversity Fellow, and 2014-2016 Family Fellow/Trainee with Georgia’s Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (GaLEND), School of Public Health at Georgia State University, and a Georgia Department of Public Health/Autism Plan for Georgia/Parent to Parent of Georgia Parent Partner working with Dr. Leslie Rubin at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She is an English<>Spanish freelance bilingual, multicultural advocate, educator, cultural broker, interpreter, translator and consultant. She obtained a Master of Science degree in Education with focus on Educational Foundations and Policy Studies, as well a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish (dual major) and Women's Studies (minor). Brenda Liz holds a professional certificate as an Interpreter in Education from The University of Georgia, completed Partners in Policymaking in 2014, and is a recent graduate of the inaugural Georgetown University, National Center for Cultural Competence, Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Leadership Academy funded through a cooperative agreement with the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD). Brenda Liz is married to Kenneth Maurice, a cultural anthropologist and professor within the University System of Georgia, and both are proud parents of a tall, dark and handsome young man who lives with autism spectrum disorders. Her blended family is multicultural and fluent in English, Spanish and (Brazilian) Portuguese. A native of the island of Puerto Rico, she lived in Hartford, Connecticut for two decades, and a few years ago relocated to metro Atlanta, Georgia. Other leadership service engagements are with the Association of University Centers, the award-winning Broad Prize in Urban Education, Gwinnett County Public Schools as Advisory Council Member of the Local School Board, state and regional liaison (Georgia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands) with the American Association on Health and Disability, and mentee to Mathew McCollough, Executive Director of the Washington D.C. Developmental Disabilities Council.

Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
Dr. Emily Graybill and I started with an incubation research period focused on literature related to Hispanic/Latino families with developmental disabilities, inclusive of ASD, autism spectrum disorders. We identified published articles written by Dr. Sandra Magaña, a pioneer researcher on Latina mothers with children with ASD, and faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s UCEDD/LEND. We also created a list of, and viewed, diversity, cultural and linguistic competent videos found on the AUCD, Association of University Centers on Disabilities and Georgetown University National Center on Cultural Competence websites. We started to identify core partners and metro Atlanta leaders that we needed their ‘blessings’ in order to co-build our diverse, local, multi-sector Latino Community of Practice (LCPR) coalition. I met with Jerry González, the Executive Director of GALEO, Georgia Association of Latino Appointed and elected Officials, and an award-winning long-standing established Latino leader with local and state-wide power and influence. He gave us his ‘blessing’ and continues to be one of our strongest supporters.

While meeting with other community leaders like the City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of Immigration Affairs, Welcoming Atlanta, the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the LAA, Latin American Association, Parent to Parent of Georgia, and the Marcus Autism Center/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we incorporated a 75/25 rule of actively listening to their cares, concerns and interests, more than talking about our own Latino Community of Practice agenda. Once we had our core consortium partners on board, each made suggestions on contacting other metro Atlanta Hispanic/Latino serving federal, state, nonprofits, education and health and mental health and media agencies, organizations and institutions.

After nine months of co-building our Latino Community of Practice, we now count with, as of September, with over 65 individual consortium partners, and 25+ such agencies, organizations and institutions represented through Atlanta Public Schools, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, CETPA, a Hispanic/Latino serving mental health nonprofit, Cobb County Public Schools, GVRA, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Association and ABLE Georgia, DBHDD, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Georgia Department of Public Health, GaDOE, Georgia Department of Education, the National Down Syndrome Congress among other community-based partners.

The next step on our Diversity Fellowship work plan was to identify a Promotora de la Salud/Community Health Worker, and through one of our core partners, we were able to reach out to Julian Henao, an emerging Hispanic/Latino community leader who had served in the same role on another project. She was interested in our developmental milestones and ASD, autism spectrum disorders specific efforts, and came on board as a temporary part-time Georgia State University employee on April 1, 2016. Dr. Emily Graybill and I trained her for two weeks with a short list of the ASD archived literature and webinar materials we had access to, and she attended our Center for Leadership in Disability/Autism Plan for Georgia two-day Autism Conference at Peachtree City, Georgia as part of her formal training. We also involved her in her own training based on her self-identified areas of needs, co-creating the opportunity to customize and self-direct her own intellectual/developmental disabilities training. Moreover, we had her complete the, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Minority Health, Think Cultural Health self-paced online self-paced Promotora de la Salud training.

Following Juliana’s onboarding and training, we started to plan using, one of our core partners, the CDC’s LTSAE, Learn The Signs Act Early and worked with Dr. Jennifer Zubler, a GaLEND Faculty and staff at the CDC to obtain the LTSAE materials in Spanish for our Hispanic/Latino community education and outreach efforts. We worked with the CDC to have materials delivered to us, and used the four to five distinct Spanish publications to disseminate during summer activities held in May through September at Hispanic/Latino serving health fairs and back-to-school clinics. We worked with our new and emerging LCPR partners such as Dr. Flavia Mercado, a Spanish-speaking Latina pediatrician and medical director at CIMA Kids, and Dr. Cynthia Román, Family Services Director at the LAA, Latin American Association and Portal de la Salud, a consortium of health-based organizations in metro Atlanta in order to identify such health fairs.

In turn, during our Promotora de la Salud efforts we have distributed, explained and promoted over 500 LTSAE Spanish materials to Hispanic/Latino families with young children, with a focus on pregnant women and those with young children 0-5 years old. We have been highly successful in working in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Congress, since Juliana, our Promotora de la Salud was recruited as temporary part-time interpreter and translator, and on July 1, 2016, was promoted to their full-time Diversity Outreach Coordinator. Juliana and I are now planning to collaborate further on a series of Spanish community education workshops to respond to the pressing needs of Hispanic/Latino families with children with disabilities, inclusive of parental rights 101, understanding an IEP and navigating systems of care. We have explored the possibility of working with Dr. Sandra Magaña at the University of Illinois at Chicago UCEDD/LEND on her Padres en acción/Parents in Action curriculum delivered in Spanish. Dr. Magaña's curriculum will instill in Hispanic/Latino parents of children with disabilities techniques and strategies to become empowered self-advocates.

I had a site visit with Dr. Magaña and Miguel Morales, their Diversity Fellow, in Chicago on September 12, 2016, to discuss her train the trainers’ efforts, and now are on the short list of possible collaborators on her nationally and internally recognized work on Latino families with children with disabilities. We are now awaiting the RFP that will be released in October or November of this year and will apply to be considered a regional community for the collaborative project.

On May 6, 2016, we held our 1st Latino Community of Practice meeting from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the LAA, Latin American Association, the oldest Hispanic/Latino serving organization in the state of Georgia, serving our community since 1972. We had 25 diverse, local and multi-sector professionals attend, and our Center for Leadership in Disability, School of Public Health at Georgia State University Director, Dr. Daniel (Dan) Crimmins welcomed all and provided a Q & A panel with Stacey Ramirez, the State Director for the ARC of Georgia. As state-wide leaders, they framed our LCPR work, and Dr. Emily Graybill and I provided backstory and context and facilitated a Hispanic/Latino community needs assessment with attendees. Post-evaluations of the meeting were collected and the Survey Monkey feedback was exceedingly positive.

On August 19th, 2016 we held our 2nd Latino Community of Practice consortium meeting at our Georgia State University Alpharetta Campus from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., and welcomed again over 25 established and new partners. We invited Jennifer Driver, Education and Training Manager at Welcoming America, a Georgia-based nationally and internationally recognized organization for their work on immigrant inclusion and integration. Jennifer facilitated a discussion on the ‘welcoming movement’ and health equity and Eric Jacobson, Executive Director of the GCDD, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities spoke about the DD network in Georgia. He stressed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the GCDD 2017-2021 strategic state plan and encouraged all Latino Community of Practice consortium partners to join the statewide advocacy and public policy actions, and let their individual and collective voice(s) be heard.

We also took time on the agenda to speak of the Diversity Fellowship capstone project, of the need to co-create a bilingual, English and Spanish, Latino of Community of Practice Provider handbook for consortium members and families. Again, our post-evaluations of the meeting were collected and the Survey Monkey feedback was exceedingly positive. However, some of the feedback this time stated that the LCPR consortium requests us to plan for a panel of bilingual or Spanish-speaking families sharing their experiences navigating education and health systems of care, focused on challenges and success stories.

A breakthrough result of our community outreach efforts resulted in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children and Families, Region IV interest in partnering with us on their Hispanic/Latino priority initiative. As well as networking with our Center for Leadership in Disability, School of Public Health at Georgia State University expertise in underserved and unserved communities in the state of Georgia and beyond.

Most recently, we were referred to PASOs, a Hispanic/Latino serving statewide programmatic initiative in our neighboring state of South Carolina, and we have contacted their Executive Director, Julie Smithwick in order to set-up a site-visit and learn from them, and inform, network and collaborate where possible.

We are looking forward to scaling up our Latino Community of Practice in year two, now that we have been awarded a second year of AIDD/AUCD funding, and will work with our core and emerging partners in order to best serve the complex and pressing needs of the growing numbers of Hispanic/Latino families with and without children with disabilities in metro Atlanta and across our state of Georgia.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
Our Diversity Fellow for Latino Community of Practice work has informed a significant number diverse, local and multi-sector practitioners and policy makers across the Georgia DD network, the Center for Leadership in Disability, School of Public at Georgia State University, Georgia Office of Advocacy and the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, plus the ARC of Georgia.

It has also influenced the LAA, Latin American Association, one of our core partners, since in most recently they hired a coalition coordinator to co-establish a health equity specific coalition, and now are organizing a Health Summit with policymakers in the state of Georgia in order to co-create a policy agenda to address the needs of Hispanic/Latino families with and without children with disabilities. We have been consulted by David Schaefer, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the LAA to serve as a ‘think tank’ to this new health equity focus. We claim it as a win-win since we deem the developing public policy agenda as a direct influence of our LCPR work and within the Hispanic/Latino leadership in metro Atlanta, and beyond.

At the same time, another core partner, the City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of Immigration Affairs, Welcoming Atlanta, has consulted with us as they currently are planning a Feria de la Educación/Education Fair for Hispanic/Latino families in metro Atlanta. Luisa Fernanda Cardona, Welcoming Atlanta’s Deputy Director approached and connected us with Jason Esteves, a Latino attorney, public official and Atlanta Public Schools elected school board member in order to collaborate on this and other education equity initiatives.

We also can report that the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, now ABLE Georgia, translated their English brochure and outreach materials into Spanish and are hiring bilingual staff to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking families.

Most recently we met with Cheryl Harris, Access to Services Section Manager with ADRC, Aging & Disability Resource Connection, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Maria Lee, a DBHDD, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities liaison, and we are developing a plan to have a representative on their Georgia state-wide Aging & Disability Network board. We will have them as guest speakers at our 3rd LCPR consortium meeting on November 18th, 2016 to inform our partners on all their available services, opportunities and supports for Spanish-speaking families across the state.

Our ultimate goal is that our Diversity Fellowship Latino Community of Practice work impacts Hispanic/Latino families directly and that families can benefit from a culturally and linguistic responsive systems of care. In addition, to co-building a grassroots movement of Hispanic/Latino parent-driven leadership that informs and influences practice(s) and social and public policy in our state of Georgia.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
First and foremost, I am a Latina, native Spanish-speaking parent of a tall, dark, handsome and smart nonverbal multi-modal communicator young man living with moderate to severe ASD, autism spectrum disorders. And as a parent navigating systems of care in the state of Georgia, I firsthand live the disparities in access, barriers, and inequities towards families like my own.

Furthermore, I am ‘ideally’ positioned to co-create, develop and implement a Latino Community of Practice activities, as a master-level professional with over 15 years of experience as a freelance bilingual and multicultural advocate, cultural bearer and broker, educator, interpreter and translator and consultant with a background in sociology, Spanish and educational policy. In tandem, I have professionally trained in interpreting in educational and medical settings, as well as collective impact, transformative leadership, participatory action research, and community building and grassroots organizing.

Plus, as a 2014-16 GaLEND Family Fellow/Trainee working under the tutelage of my faculty mentor, Dr. Emily Graybill, we both have similar areas of academic interest, to include diversity, cultural and linguistic competence, education and health equity, and early ASD screening and intervention.

It was also a natural progression in my professional trajectory to step into the role of Diversity Fellow and gain greater influence as an ‘emerging’ Latina leader within the DD networks. And already serving as a governor appointed and executive council member with the GCDD, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.

I choose to work on this project because the need was/is more than evident, and we have the opportunity to create 'real changes with real results impacting real lives.'

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
I have gained greater insight into the needs of Hispanic/Latino families like my own, and the timely opportunity to work for, with and within our ever-growing network of Hispanic/Latino serving diverse, local, regional and state-wide multi-sector professionals interested in supporting our Latino Community of Practice goals.

I have also gained insight into my next career/professional and continuing education goals.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
I have contemplated acting on a long-term plan pursuing an AASPH, CEPH accredited online MPH, Master in Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Public Health Leadership or at the University of South Florida in Public Health Practice or at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Maternal and Child Health Policy and Leadership. All three are in the top 20 MPH programs nationwide and located in the Southeast. I am most interested in the latter of the three for its emphasis on MCH competencies and policy and leadership.

In the interim, I want to act on a short-term plan and register for the Professional English<>Spanish Medical Interpreter Certificate continuing education program at the University of Georgia this fall, and sit for the CMI, Certified Medical Interpreter credential offered through the NBCMI, National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. I am also interested in a short term Advanced Health Education certificate from the CEPH accredited New York Medical College that will lead towards eligibility to sit for the CHES, Certified Health Education Specialist credential.
All to complement my MS, Master of Science in Education, Foundations and Policy Studies, and post-graduate two years, 2014-16 of GaLEND, Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities professional academic and leadership training. Plus, I am a graduate of the inaugural 2015-16 Georgetown University, National Center on Cultural Competence Leadership Academy on Diversity, Cultural and Linguistic Competence and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Hence, I now plan to hold both professional educational and medical interpreter certificates from the University of Georgia in 2016 and work towards CHES credentialing by 2018. If and when I find how to sensibly finance my 42-46 credit online accredited MPH program, I will want to complete it by no later than 2020.

In part due to my Diversity Fellowship experience, I now want to expand my career to include work in education and health equity and maternal and child public health initiatives focused on serving underserved and unserved communities in Georgia, the Southeast and beyond.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
In next five years, I want to focus on leadership opportunities to leverage my strengths in diversity, equity and inclusion, cultural and linguistic competence, life-span individual and family services, opportunities and supports, and bilingual community education and outreach, advocacy and policy and civic engagement and strategic partnerships.

I will also welcome the opportunity to delve into my freelance enterprise as a professional master-level dual certified English<>Spanish education and medical interpreter, and translator, in order to provide language access at local, regional and national community-wide, family-centered events, conferences, trainings. In addition, I will like to return to my bilingual community educator roots and deliver culturally and linguistic competent and responsive seminars, trainings and workshops for and with Hispanic/Latino families and/or bilingual professionals.
If and when I complete my MPH by the year 2020, I foresee myself involved in high-level consulting with the AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics, the AAIDD, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the AUCD, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and NACDD, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, among others.

Moreover, I want to continue to be engaged and involved in our AIDD/AUCD Diversity & Inclusion Community of Practice working for and with my current professional mentors, Dr. Daniel (Dan) Crimmins, Dr. Emily Graybill, Dr. Lillie Huddleston, Mark Crenshaw, Tawara Goode, and Mathew (Mat) McCullough.

7. What recommendations do you have for other fellows?
I recommend all Diversity Fellows keep a teachable attitude, and an open mind, heart, and hands to receive the ‘gifts’ of this transformative journey. It is the same advice that I give myself each and every day.

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