Young professionals with disabilities host first event

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Young professionals with disabilities host first event

via Democrat and Chronicle, June 28 2011

One of the area’s newest young professionals’ groups brought a unique gathering of skilled workers in finance, law, sociology, bioinformatics and disability rights advocacy together recently

And despite the diversity of careers, they all attended the first meeting of the Rochester Young Professionals with Disabilities, a group headed by Luticha Doucette, 28, to encourage peer networking, volunteerism and career guidance among those with disabilities.

Also on the planning committee is Stephanie Woodward, 23, a second-year law student at Syracuse University.

“I’ve always wanted to be part of a (young professionals) group,” said the city native and St. John Fisher graduate. “But I’d read their updates and feel like it was too hard to do most of their (social events).

Woodward has spina bifida and is forced to use a wheelchair most of the time, but that hasn’t deterred her from interning on Capitol Hill and advocating with the Center for Disability Rights.

“Part of the membership for this group is going to be helping others,” said Woodward. “We want to beat the stigma that we always have to be helped. We have abilities, too.”

Others, like Dario Castaldi of Pittsford, aren’t currently employed but attended the meeting at Lovin’ Cup last week to network for future career opportunities.

“I wanted to be able to network with others in the community who are studying or working,” said Castaldi, 31, who had just come from a free library lecture on how to use LinkedIn.

Castaldi studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology for three years and hopes to start his own business.

“I came here to meet people and find connections for my business,” said Castaldi. “I’m excited to have these meetings and LinkedIn to help me start my business.”

In addition to helping the locals, the group’s inception has inspired similar groups in Michigan and Syracuse.

“All it takes is one person to make a difference, so it’s really exciting to see like-minded people coming together on this,” said Doucette of Henrietta. “And yet again, Rochester is an inspiration to other parts of the nation.