Bender Leadership Academy encourages students and alumni to become disability advocates and thoughtful citizens through civic leadership.

We Will Slaughter Stigma

Join Joyce Bender, host of Disability Matters, and Karin Slaughter, New York Times Best-Selling author, in a campaign to end stigma. This campaign is focused on educating the public about the effects stigma and stereotypes have on the disability community what actions can be taken to break down these attitudinal barriers.

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We Will Slaughter Stigma
Bender Lead On Team

The Bender Lead On Team provides a positive social media environment for participants to engage with other students, Bender Leadership Academy alumni, and disability community and business leaders. The Bender Lead On Team spreads news of competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities, opportunities to engage in community advocacy initiatives, and anti-bullying messages. The Bender Lead On Team encourages young people with disabilities to set goals that align with competitive career opportunities, develop pride in being a member of the disability community, and develop a network of peers and mentors. The Bender Lead On Team honors Justin Dart, one of the most respected and significant leaders of the disability civil rights movement who famously encouraged the disability community to, “Lead On! Lead On!”

Join the Bender Lead On Team

Justin Dart
Linda Dickerson Scholarship
Linda Dickerson with Joyce Bender

The Linda Dickerson Scholarship was created by Bender Leadership Academy for students who were positively impacted by attending any of our Bender Leadership Academy programs.

About Linda Dickerson – Linda Dickerson was a trailblazer in the Disabilities Rights Community. Linda was diagnosed with a rare, genetic neuromuscular disease known as Werdnig-Hoffmann, a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy. She used a wheelchair her entire life. After obtaining other significant disabilities later in her life, she still remained unstoppable. Dickerson’s internal drive and unrelenting spirit did not let any challenges get in the way of her life goals.

About the Linda Dickerson Scholarship- All students who participate in any of our Bender Leadership Academy programs are eligible to win a Linda Dickerson Scholarship. Bender Leadership Academy will give up to 16 $1,000 scholarships out throughout the school year.

2021/2022 – Linda Dickerson Scholarship Awardees


Rushma K.
Baldwin High School
Advanced Student Leaders


Hiro M.
Fox Chapel High School
Advanced Student Leaders


Angela M.
Riverside High School
Advanced Student Leaders

Gregory D

Gregory D.
Insight PA Cyber Charter School
Advanced Student Leaders


Brooklyn W.
Insight PA Cyber Charter School
Advanced Student Leaders


Jason B.
Mon Valley High School

Joey B

Joey B.


Wade D.
Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
Disability Mentoring Day


Destiny M.
Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
Disability Mentoring Day


Zachary P.
Norwin High School
Student Leaders


Courtney S.
Central Valley High School
Student Leaders


Colby R.
Peters Township High School
Student Leaders


Nicholas M.
Community College of Allegheny County/City Connections1
Student Leaders


Joy M.
Ellwood City High School
Student Leaders


Jocelyn M.
Beaver County Community Technical Center

Read the Press Release
Sam Miller Award
Rushma Kafley

The Sam Miller Award is presented to an individual with a disability between the ages of 14-21 who has shown, through action, their dedication to advocacy, anti-bullying, and leadership efforts in support of youth with disabilities. The recipient of the Sam Miller Award will be recognized with a plaque and a $300.00 gift certificate presented by corporate sponsor Bender Consulting Services, Inc. The Sam Miller Award is given annually. Applications are accepted between September 1 and August 31 of the award year.

Sam Miller Award Winners

  • 2022 Rushma Kafley
  • 2021  Asher Jordan
  • 2020  Brianna Cooley
  • 2019  Jerry Metting
  • 2018  Jayla Youngblood
  • 2017  Kaitlyn Lore
  • 2016  Olivia Stevenson
  • 2015  Gwendolyn Jackson
  • 2014  Nicole Kay
  • 2013  Staci Forrest
Apply to be a Sam Miller Recipient
Educator of the Year
Ruth Briceland Educator of the year 2022

The Educator of the Year winner goes to an educator who goes above and beyond in helping students with disabilities in a Bender Leadership Program.

2022 Educator of the Year

Ruth Briceland
Beaver Area School District
Transition Coordinator (Retired)

Alan Crawford

2021 Educator of the Year

Alan Crawford
Start On Success Instructor
Special Education Department
Brashear High School – Pittsburgh, PA

Pioneer Award
Stacie Dojonovic

The Pioneer Award winner goes to an educator, company, volunteer, or an employee who has contributed to Bender Leadership Academy success for over ten years.

2022 Pioneer Award

Stacie Dojonovic
Transition Coordinator
Fox Chapel School District

Dionna Harris

2021 Pioneer Award

Dionna Harris
Guidance Counselor
Networks School for Employability
Christina School District, Newark, DE

Take advantage of free curriculum designed to provide a foundation for becoming an engaged citizen. The curriculum addresses the roles of local, state and federal government structures, the importance of exercising the right to vote, and how citizens can become a proponent for change through advocacy and action. Curriculum is available at two levels addressing middle and high-school aged students and young adults of voting age.

Contact us to learn when the Free Jarrett Community Engagement Curriculum is available.