Josie Badger with little dog

#IWantToWork campaign manager Josie Badger, PhD, has been honored with Pittsburgh’s ATHENA Young Professional Award. It is given to an emerging leader under age 35.

Born with multiple disabilities, Josie believes her most gratifying experiences have involved achieving success within the “non-disabled world,” and helping young people with disabilities find their own path in life. In addition to her role at #IWantToWork, she serves as Youth Development Director at the Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership (PEAL) Center in Pittsburgh.

She received the award at the ATHENA Leadership Award luncheon in Pittsburgh on Oct. 8.

“I think of Josie as a role model. I want to have her courage. I want to have her grace. I want to have her belief that all of us can contribute to society. I have some of those things, but I want to be like her,” said Robert Nelkin chief executive of the United Way of Pennsylvania, a major funder of the #IWantToWork campaign.

“Watch out Pittsburgh, watch out Pennsylvania. Watch out United States. This is a person who is going to be a leader of all of us”, Nelkin said in the video introducing Josie at the ATHENA luncheon

“Leadership isn’t power. It is not a title. It’s not a piece of paper with a degree printed on it. Leadership is being able to share the power with other individuals, To me, it’s sharing with young adults with disabilities,” Badger said at the luncheon.

“I don’t to be that inspirational disabled girl. I don’t want people to look at me and see my complicated disability and think that should not be a reason to pursue our dreams”, Badger said in the introductory video.

A voracious learner, Badger graduated summa cum laude from Geneva College in 2007, earning a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in disability law and advocacy. She earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh and earned a doctorate in healthcare ethics from Duquesne University in 2014.

She said that attaining a doctorate, becoming a campaign manager, director of youth programming at a statewide organization, and a co-director for a national technical assistance network are achievements that anyone should be proud of, not just someone with a disability.

#IWantToWork is an initiative of the Campaign for What Works. The Campaign for What Works builds non-partisan coalitions to support effective human services for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens. It is a voice for common-sense solutions that work for consumers, providers, and taxpayers. Major funders include The Pittsburgh Foundation, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Forbes Funds and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership.

By Alexa Brill

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