FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 24, 2022
Edie Surtees, Communications Director
Disability Rights Texas Appoints Seven New Members to Board of Directors
AUSTIN—Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), the legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas, has appointed the following seven new members to its board of directors for fiscal year 2023 beginning October 1, 2022: Chelsea Anders (Lubbock); Jack Brown (Duncanville); Jennifer Covington (Austin); Alfreddie Felder (Baytown); Amy Pierce (Round Rock); Dylan Rafaty (Plano); and Samantha Smith (Dallas).
The Board is comprised of 16 members from across the state who reflect the diverse constituency of individuals with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities who are served by the agency.
Board members continuing their terms of service in officer positions include: Brandon Duke, Chair (Houston); Mary Keller Alexander, Vice Chair (Valley View); Karen Hale, Treasurer (Austin); Evelyn Cano, Secretary (Pharr); and Brook Roberts, Immediate Past Chair (Lubbock).
Continuing in Director positions are: Laura Marquez (El Paso); Gerardo Mireles (McAllen); Omobola Oyeleye (Houston); Amanda Storer (Tyler)
About Our New Board Members
Chelsea Anders of Lubbock became a disability advocate for people with disabilities when her daughter, Olivia, was born seven weeks prematurely with Gastroschisis and Cerebral Palsy. She currently serves as Chairwoman for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and previously served as Sustaining Advisor for the DEI Committee for the Junior League of Lubbock and as a member of the Inclusion Diversity Equity and Awareness Committee for the City Mom Collective Network. Chelsea is a 2020 graduate of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities Partners in Policymaking program and is currently part of the team that delivers that training today. Chelsea holds a position on the DRTx Board as the Chair of our PAIMI Council, which advises the agency on our work related to advocacy for people with mental illness.
Jack Brown of Duncanville is an army veteran with seven years of peer support specialist experience. He founded Peer 2 Peer Whole Wellness and is often called upon to share his personal experiences related to substance use challenges, mental health issues, and recovery from incarceration. Jack believes that living a life in recovery and modeling healing behavior is the key to ultimate freedom.
Jennifer Covington of Austin has a connection to the disability community both personally and professionally. She has disabilities and chronic illness and has fought for her rights throughout her life and career. Her experiences are why she chose a profession in school psychology which allows her to continue that fight for others with disabilities. Jennifer currently serves as the Director of Bilingual Evaluation Support for an educational consulting/contracting company.
Dr. Alfreddie Felder of Baytown has spent several decades working to improve the life of her daughter and others with disabilities. She began her career as a classroom teacher, and with a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership she advanced to serve in many levels of the public educational system including Executive Director of Curriculum and School Improvement and other leadership roles for La Porte ISD and Goose Creek CISD in Baytown, Texas. Alfreddie also was a member of the DRTx staff for six years as a special education advocate for Houston area families.
Dylan Rafaty of Plano is a proud member of the deaf and hard of hearing community. For the past 10 years he has been involved in the cross-disability community through his advocacy and career. Dylan has served on numerous boards including the North Texas Disability Chamber, the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, Sandlot Children’s Charity, the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, and more. He has advocated for people with disabilities statewide and nationally and has recently expanded his efforts internationally.
Amy Pierce of Round Rock uses her lived experience with mental health challenges and extensive experience with program development to support organizations in meeting their goals and creating recovery-oriented systems of care. She has spent many years in the public mental health system and knows first-hand the impact of having her rights violated and not knowing where to turn. Amy is also a certified peer specialist and provides webinars on rights and trains individuals in becoming their best advocate. She has served on numerous boards and advisory groups including the Peer Leader Advisory Group, the DRTx PAIMI Advisory Council, Texas Mental Health Consumers, and Texas Catalyst for Empowerment. She previously served on the DRTx Board of Directors, and the agency is glad to welcome her back from another term of service.
Samantha Smith of Dallas has been a proud advocate for mental health most of her life. Her own extensive treatment led her to start a mental health blog. Through her public speaking, Samantha aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illness in order to help others overcome their mental health issues. Samantha advocates for children and women through volunteer opportunities with Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. Aside from mental health, her passion extends to advocating for civil rights and services for underserved communities.
“The wide range of knowledge, expertise and passion that our new board members bring with them is impressive,” said Sean Jackson, DRTx Executive Director. “I look forward to the many contributions they will make to our organization and the disability community.”
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Disability Rights is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.