From our Partners in Policymaking® News

Our Partners graduates are subscribed to a monthly newsletter just for them. Features include:

  • Thoughts and resources from Cathlyn Smith, Director of Leadership Development
  • Updates on the work Partners grads are doing across the state
  • Ways to get involved and offer feedback on important issues
  • First-to-know updates on Council projects and opportunities, including Partners-related events
  • And more!

If you’re a Partners grad:

  • Aren’t getting this newsletter? Contact us at, and we’ll make sure you’re subscribed!
  • Wish your name was here? Send us an update or post to social media using #PartnersTN30. We’d love to hear from folks in classes further back – we know many of you are still using your Partners know-how to lead and advocate!

As a special feature for this Partners 30th anniversary edition of Breaking Ground, we’re sharing a few highlights from recent Partners newsletters, highlighting grads doing great work in their communities.

April 2023 Feature: Partners Grad Desiree Dyer, Class of 2022
“Last month, I was officially appointed to the board of directors for Autism Tennessee. I’ll be serving on two committees, programs and fundraising. I’ll also be putting my IT experience to good use as part of the team getting the new website up and running. During my interview process, one of the things I talked about was the fact that if Autism Tennessee wishes to grow its budget and fundraising capabilities, one growing edge that stands out for me is storytelling shared with the community by families and autistic self-advocates. I am hoping to use my Partners in Policymaking experience and lessons around storytelling to do quarterly trainings for Autism TN members, staff, and the board. The initial feedback has been enthusiastic.

“In August, I got a new job as Network and Computer Systems Administrator with the Nashville Symphony. One of the things I’ve taken on here is working with Chrissy Hood (a fellow 2022 Partners grad) to try to bring an adult-sized changing table to the Schermerhorn Center.

“Around the same time I started in Partners in Policymaking, I was also selected by the Upper Mattaponi Tribal Council to be a part of the Constitution Committee to create a government for our newly formed sovereign nation.

“I’m so excited about the advocacy work I’m doing in the autism and wider disability communities as well as the work I’m able to do on behalf of my Upper Mattaponi people. When Partners was wrapping up in the spring of last year, I had no idea how I’d translate the lessons I learned into action. But here I am, and I can’t wait to let you know how all these efforts pay off.”

July 2023 Feature: Partners Grad Peach Chinratanalab, Class of 2022
Peach Chinratanalab is still young but has long been a policy advocate for people with disabilities. She’s a Vanderbilt Next Steps graduate, an employee at Bubble Love Nashville, and a 2022 Partners in Policymaking graduate.
These days, Peach is passionate about accessible transportation. Her parents serve as her primary form of transportation, driving her to work and medical appointments in their accessible van.

Peach says that more accessible public transportation would allow her greater independence. She has met with her state legislators to talk about her concerns. She asks for more investment in accessible transportation options. “I want to see people with disabilities be able to get where they need to go just like anyone else,” she says. “Most public transportation or private ride services like Uber or Lyft aren’t accessible to people who use a power wheelchair. I am advocating for more options for people like me, who need to get to work and want to be out in the community.”

August 2023 Feature: Partners Grad Kimberly Coleman, Class of 2021
Council staff recently attended an Advocates in Motion (AiM) Person-Centered Training in Nashville. Kimberly Coleman was one of the trainers and did a fabulous job. She’s been an AiM trainer for five years and said she LOVES it. The 7 attendees, who are Tennesseans with disabilities, reflected on what is important to them, discussed their future dreams, and created a vision board with images of their goals.

Background: The Council funds Advocates in Motion, which is coordinated by the TN Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Check out this video for more about the program:

And from the same issue: Partners Grad Carol Shehan, Class of 2015
“Going through the Partners program was such an enlightening, meaningful, and positive experience for me! Since graduating, my main focus has been advocating for my daughter, who is 43 and has cerebral palsy. I continue to encourage other parents/caregivers to seek out how to be the best advocate they can be, as well as passing on vital information and resources for them to help further their or their loved one’s goals. Medical issues prevent me from working, but I do volunteer work, which includes being an Ombudsman for the state of TN. I advocate where and when I can.”

October 2023 Feature: Partners Grad Monica Everett, Class of 2023
Monica Everett has been using information, skills, and relationships gained through Partners to make lots of great things happen in her community! She is the mom of two young boys with autism.

Monica shared with us that since graduating in April, she helped create and serves as co-leader of the new “Labeled and Loved Memphis Sisterhood Circles Pilot Program.”

Monica told us: “L & L is a national non-profit organization benefiting mothers and families of people with disabilities. The mission and vision of the sisterhood circle support group is to bring moms of kids with disabilities into a community where they can arrive accepted, feel seen, be celebrated, and find belonging to expand inner strength. Currently, Memphis has more than 40 women participating. It is the first of its kind in the city from a national organization.”

Partners classmate Heather Bensch spoke at the group’s last meeting about her own journey as mom to a daughter with disabilities. Monica represented the organization on a TV interview on WMC Action News 5 (pictured below at left) about their July “Moms Night Out” event.
You can connect to Monica’s efforts by following her Facebook page, “All Aboard for Autism.”