Who We Are:
Peaces of Me is a community of unique individuals united in a common vision redefining what it means to have a disability, physical difference, or chronic illness. We celebrate every kind of diversity, because an array of perspectives is the only way of addressing systemic problems holistically and comprehensively. While we may not agree with every opinion espoused within our community, we must treat one another with respect and grace at all times.
Our community prides itself on our ability to emphasize the positive characteristics and contributions of our members, rather than whatever the outside world perceives as broken. That said, many of the conditions that bring us here are associated with pain, fatigue, depression, and an assortment of other unpleasant aspects of life. Add to this, we are frequently discriminated against, misunderstood, and sometimes even outright shunned.
Our community does not hide from these realities. In fact, we cannot address what is wrong without acknowledging it’s existence. The painful, the sad, and the hopeless are topics that require a place in our greater discussion.
Somewhere, there is a balance between recognizing the dark reality that we all pass through, and grasping toward the light that we all seek. Between recognizing what is wrong, and creating a future built on what is right. We seek to strike that balance, and unleash the potential that is currently suppressed by the barriers standing between us and this future. This process of self-discovery demands that we recognize our struggles, and realize that they need not define us.
Meet Our Board:
I have spent my entire life learning to thrive in a body that some consider to be deeply flawed. As someone who was born blind, and with a connective tissue disorder, I am well-acquainted with the low expectations encountered by those with disabilities. These experiences have ignited a fire in me to help create a world in which everyone is afforded the opportunity to reach their potential without the barriers that hold so many of us back. In 2018, I entered the University of Baltimore School of Law, with aspirations of practicing at the intersection of healthcare and civil rights law. My involvement in Peaces of Me is an outgrowth of these efforts. Our collective passion for advocacy and furtherance of equity and inclusion runs deep. I am blessed and honored to be part of this amazing team.
Kristy Rogers started her career in Behavioral Health upon graduating from the University of Phoenix with her Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2011. Her work in the behavioral health field brought much fulfillment and joy to her by helping those without the means or knowledge to help themselves. Her true passion is promoting inclusion for all persons no matter what their circumstances may involve. Kristy was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona where she still resides with her husband and four kids. Her youngest daughter, Kauri, was born with Symbrachydactyly, the absence of her right forearm and hand. This was a driving force for Kristy to be part of the start up of Peaces of Me, an opportunity to reach others and educate them with the resources available to assist in daily activities. Due to an injury she sustained, she is now a stay at home mom enjoying the extra time with her children. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, doing many outdoor activities, camping, baking with her kids, and taking care of their many animals.
I have been involved with advocacy for over 20 years both on an individual level and a larger level due to my work with several dog guide schools and the national Federation of the blind. I currently hold offices within the Human Service division and the National Association of Guide Dog Users divisions both of the National Federation of the Blind and look forward to my work with this organization and advancing resources for those dealing with disabilities, and diagnose disorders, and chronic illness. On a more personal level I enjoy reading, writing horses, and skiing when I get the chance.
Director of Communications
Clarissa graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2019 and is now a licensed attorney. Her passion has always been advocacy and is driven by the theory “pain fuels passion.” In 2015, Clarissa lost her best friend when she drowned in her submerged vehicle in a retention pond in Florida. Realizing this preventable accident occurred due to lack of guardrails, Clarissa utilized her knowledge and social media outreach to successfully pass “Chloe’s Law” in just nine months. Clarissa has vast experience in championing the impact that media has on connecting people from across the world and seeks to utilize that to help people understand the misconceptions that people with disabilities, physical difference and illness often face.
Karyn Schulz, Ed.D, started her career in higher education in 1992 as the Learning Disability Coordinator at Essex Community College. She has remained in higher education dedicating over 20 years to disability support services. She is passionate about student’s self-advocacy and works to help students understand how to transition from class-based accommodations to work-based accommodations when appropriate. Originally from New York (she’s an Island girl), she now calls Maryland her home and lives in Harford County on 3.5 acres of peace and quiet! A mom of nearly 24-year old twin boys (yes, she’s that old!) Karyn enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, cooking, and finding new things to do around the region. Her passions include her dogs (Goldens rule!) and penguins as anyone can tell after spending time in her office.
I went blind 7 years ago and had to rebuild my life on my own through researching, networking, and finding clinicians in order to regain my independence. My overarching purpose is always to bring people together to reach a common goal.
Why Peaces of Me is Needed:
It is often stated that persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world. Using our broadened definition, the number of individuals who fall under this umbrella would be quite substantial. Nevertheless, a significant portion of needs remain unmet due to gaps in coverage and other systemic failings. Although there are a multitude of organizations doing great work within their respective spheres, too many individuals and families continue to fall through the cracks.
Because Peaces of Me is a national organization, we have the ability to share and spread ideas without geographic restrictions. This is designed to curtail the disparity of resources often overlooked in underserved communities and regions.
No diagnosis required: regardless of what condition, disability, or difference that you or your loved one is dealing with, there are many common experiences worth exploring. By sharing in these common experiences, insights and connections are found that would otherwise go unnoticed if we remain confined to our artificial boxes. Furthermore, we are fully aware and mindful of those who are still seeking adequate diagnosis for what they are experiencing. Assistance and support should be offered at every stage of the journey, and not limited to after a diagnosis has been offered.
Disability is the word most commonly associated with this movement. However, for some, this word can be divisive or carry a negative connotation. Our community respects and welcomes those who have a physical difference, but do not consider themselves to be “disabled” in the classical sense. The use of inclusive language is meant to highlight this philosophy.
Too often, chronic illness is left out of the public discussion, as though these experiences are somehow less legitimate. Our community recognizes that left unaddressed and unsupported, these conditions can significantly inhibit quality of life in several capacities. Accordingly, we do not draw distinctions between “physical” and “mental” illness. While these conditions present unique challenges for some, distinguishing them in this context runs the risk of furthering misconceptions that one kind of condition is “more serious” than the other. We make no such judgment.
Other elements of life such as: race, gender identity, LGBTQ+ status, religious views, or the presence of multiple disabilities/differences/conditions often color our perspective in a unique manner. Similarly, political views, philosophical differences, and numerous other lived experiences may shape our individual approach to this topic. We welcome this diversity, as exploring these intersections deepens and broadens our collective knowledge. We are not defined by one characteristic, so we need not limit ourselves to what is immediately apparent.