Breaking Ground 92 - Partners 2017-18 Class Graduates

by Ned Andrew Solomon, Council Editor-in-Chief of Breaking Ground
a large group photo of the graduating Partners class at the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Capitol; the group includes about 30 adults with and without visible and invisible disabilities
2018 graduating class of the Council's Partners in Policymaking program

On April 14, 28 individuals graduated from the 2017-18 Partners in Policymakingâ„¢ Leadership Institute. It was the most geographically diverse class ever, with nine participants from West, Tennessee, nine from Middle and ten from East, some traveling from typically underrepresented cities and towns like Ooltewah, Lakeland, Paris, Maryville, Tullahoma, Munford, Charlotte and Hixson.

While other states have struggled to keep their Partners programs funded or alive with interest, the Tennessee program has continued to grow, thanks to the ongoing support of the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the positive word of mouth of those who have completed the intensive seven-weekend training, with informative and thought-provoking sessions taught by local and national experts in the disability field.

This class is on fire. Before the end of the program, these Partners were establishing relationships with their policymakers and contacting them about legislation they were passionate about; brain-storming about and initiating programs that enhanced social and recreational opportunities, expanded employment and transportation options; and promoted more inclusive and welcoming environments for people with disabilities. Without exception, they moved beyond the personal issues that brought them to Partners, and explored ways to make systems and society more accessible to people of all disabilities and challenging life experiences.

I am so proud to welcome the following Tennesseans into the Partners graduate network:

  • Angelica Allsup, Cordova
  • Carla Bourdeau, Murfreesboro
  • Emily Bowlan, Arlington
  • Sheila Carson, Hendersonville
  • Kristie Clemmons, Jackson
  • Roddey Coe, Ooltewah
  • Jennifer Coleman, Paris
  • Clarisse Durnell, Nashville
  • Erika Engler, Nashville
  • Cheron Evans, Collierville
  • Terri Fought, Lakeland
  • Tatum Bryan Fowler, Knoxville
  • Carla Gipson, Memphis
  • Gloria Huber, Cleveland
  • Larry Huber, Cleveland
  • Sadiatou Jallow, Knoxville
  • Jean-Marie Lawrence, Chattanooga
  • Jonathan McGee, Maryville
  • Chrystal Murphy, Chattanooga
  • Zennia Nesmith, Chattanooga
  • Tracy Qua, Tullahoma
  • Bill Radtke, Munford
  • Christy Ray, Madison
  • Robin Rogers, Old Hickory
  • Sara Scott, Hixson
  • Brenda Stroud, Charlotte
  • Deborah Todd, Knoxville
  • Zavion Williams, Memphis

For those interested in applying to Partners, applications are available all year long. Please contact me at 615.532.6556 or, or apply on-line at