SOURCE: National Disability Institute

National Disability Institute

December 03, 2013 23:17 ET

Holland, Mich. Woman Wins National Disability Institute's My American Dream Video Contest

Lucia Rios Learns of Her Win and Mentorship by NPR News Investigations Correspondent & Author Joseph Shapiro at Surprise Event at Holland City Hall

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - December 03, 2013) - Lucia Rios of Holland, Mich. received big news today when National Disability Institute and National Public Radio News Investigations Correspondent Joseph Shapiro surprised her at an event at Holland City Hall to announce she won National Disability Institute's My American Dream ­- Voices of Americans with Disabilities video contest and that Shapiro will serve as her mentor as she pursues her book writing dream.

Rios, a 33-year-old community access specialist at Holland's Disability Network Lakeshore and a freelance journalist, was one of five finalists in National Disability Institute's video contest encouraging persons with disabilities to highlight their American dreams to show that working toward your dreams is something all Americans share. Rios's video received the most votes on the contest website, making her the grand prizewinner of $1,000, a digital tablet of her choice and sessions with a mentor to help her move toward her dream. Rios, who has spina bifida, shared in her video her dream of writing a book about the disability experience and her life as a person with a disability. She graduated from Western Michigan University where she majored in journalism.

National Disability Institute and Shapiro surprised Rios with the news of her win at a meeting at City Hall in Holland, Mich. Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra, City Manager Ryan Cotton and City Councilman and Executive Director of Disability Network Lakeshore Todd Whiteman all took part in the surprise, as did many of Rios's family, friends and colleagues. A National Disability Institute team member presented Rios with her prize, while Shapiro and National Disability Institute Executive Director Michael Morris joined via video conference to announce the news and let Rios know Shapiro would be serving as her mentor. Shapiro has won numerous awards for his investigative journalism and is author of the award-winning book NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement, a book widely read in disability studies classes and widely respected by the disability community. Prior to joining NPR in 2001, Shapiro spent 19 years at U.S. News & World Report as a senior writer on social policy and served as the magazine's Rome bureau chief as well as covered the White House and Congress. Shapiro has received numerous awards for his investigative journalism including a Peabody Award, Robert F. Kennedy Award and the Edward R. Murrow Award.

Watch Video of Lucia Rios's Surprise (

"National Disability Institute started this video contest to show that Americans with disabilities want a piece of the American dream. Being financially independent, building a rewarding career, starting a business, owning a home, going to college or writing a book are dreams we all share," said Michael Morris, Executive Director of National Disability Institute, the first national non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to building a better economic future for all people with disabilities. "National Disability Institute works daily at a national, state and local level to ensure people with disabilities have access to the economic mainstream to pursue their American dreams. We are looking forward to working with Lucia and she takes the next steps in her career. Having mentors who are where you want to be is a major key to career and life success. We appreciate Joe Shapiro lending his time and talent to mentor Lucia and guide her as she pursues her book writing dream."

"People with disabilities have important stories to tell. They know best the disability experience. And the rest of us can learn from listening. That's why it's important when a writer like Lucia Rios wants to tell her story," said Shapiro. "Congratulations to the 'My American Dream' finalists and to Lucia. I look forward to working with her."

Rios was shocked by her win and said she was thrilled a number of her family, friends and colleagues could be there to share in the announcement. "Whether you have a disability or not, everyone has a dream. And why not try and pursue that dream. I am just really thankful for this opportunity," said Rios.

Rios and Shapiro will have several mentoring meetings, where the two will discuss Rios's vision for her book and the steps she may consider taking to achieve her goal.

National Disability Institute also surprised Brennan Heider, a 15-year-old from Green Bay, Wisc., on Dec. 3 and notified him that he will receive $250 and sessions with a to-be-determined mentor as first runner up in the My American Dream - Voices of Americans with Disabilities Video Contest. Heider, who was born with bilateral upper extremity hemimelia and class four PFFD, currently sings and performs in theater productions and singing groups at his high school and in the community. A self-described super fan of the hit Fox television show "Glee," Heider aspires to be a singer and performer, dreaming one day of performing on Broadway and recording an album.

For more information on National Disability Institute's My American Dream Video Contest, to view the surprise announcement or view Rios's winning contest video or Heider's runner up video, visit the contest website at

About National Disability Institute

National Disability Institute (NDI) is national non-profit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities. The first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities, National Disability Institute effects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives. National Disability Institute and its Real Economic Impact (REI) Network have helped nearly 2 million people with disabilities receive more than $1.8 billion in tax refunds and credits. To learn more, visit

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