50 minutes | Jan 20, 2021

Othering with Elizabeth Jinzo

Elizabeth Jinzo is a mom who decided things needed to be better. When her daughter was born prematurely and diagnosed with Autism, she was forced into the role of advocate and had to become an expert in navigating systems, including public education, where she fought for her daughter’s integration into “regular” classrooms. She was so good at this, she started a non-profit to help other parents whose children have intellectual or developmental disabilities. In 2008, she founded D.E.S.I., which stands for Designated Exceptional Services for Independence, and is named after her daughter, Deserai. She’s been repeatedly recognized and awarded for her work, and well she should be, because D.E.S.I. not only provides advocation, life skills classes and job training to its clients, it’s also a community food bank, runs a thrift store and provides work programs for mothers on assistance. Needless to say, she’s rather impressive and quite inspiring. We talk about fighting the good fight. Serving 4,500 people at their food bank in October 2020. Being creative to keep clients engaged during lockdown/with Zoom. Pre-COVID, it was about integrating clients, being inclusive in the community. Getting clients into college. Refusing to lower expectations. She was told her daughter would never talk or go to college. Her daughter now has her own apartment in supported living. Pretend cousins. Taking away humiliating language. Being like family. Not being adversarial; creating compassion and empathy instead. Know the law. Holding pencils. Daughter was born 1.5 lbs; watched her develop in an incubator. Pioneering parents. Ending educational segregation. Letting children make their own choices so they can be their own person. Difficulty in letting go. Innate awareness. Helicopter parents. Learning about the resources available. Having to take action. Expense of special needs. Going back to school. Seeing potential. Becoming a teacher. Independent living skills. Rotaries and chambers. It takes a village. It's not just the child who needs assistance—the entire family does. Creating scholarships. Blossoming into community support. 2 locations: East L.A. (thrift store and food bank) and Bell Gardens (admin). Being uncomfortable rather than compassionate. Meaningful friendships. Structure. Emulating behavior. Try. Realizing true potential. Making a difference in the world. Support system. Yea, Kenny! Believing. Audacity. When you're hungry enough, things will happen. Obstacles as learning tools. Having a strong work ethic. Showing up.

You can reach Liz and D.E.S.I. on Twitter and Instagram @desi_serve on Facebook @desiserve and at desiserve.org

Episode recorded on 11/13/20

Episode released on 01/27/20

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