Melissa Mitchell, Program Manger I Community Inclusion, Albertina Kerr Centers

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Ms. Melissa N. Mitchell

Program Manger I Community Inclusion

Albertina Kerr Centers

HQ Phone: (503) 239-8101

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Albertina Kerr Centers

424 NE 22Nd Avenue

Portland, Oregon 97232

United States

Company Description

Since 1907, Albertina Kerr has strengthened Oregon families and communities. Today, we provide programs and services to children and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges, empowering them to live richer lives. We're buildin ... more

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Background Information

Employment History


Free Wheelin' Freelance



AmeriCorps Member
Alliance of Children Youth and Families

AmeriCorps Member
Pierce County Deparment of Emergency Management

Web References (116 Total References)


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Melissa in the Middle of Everything: The Melissa Mitchell Story [cached]

The following is an excerpt from an essay Melissa Mitchell wrote in 2003 entitled "AmeriCorps - Learning What it Means to be American. It was written not long after she returned from living in France for two years while teaching English. Her journey abroad began just two weeks after one of the most tragic days in the history of our country - September 11, 2001.

On her return to the United States, Mitchell felt a deep grumbling within her soul to reconnect with her red, white and blue heritage. Part of her need was driven by lessons taught to her at a very early age by her mother that it is our duty to help others who need help. The greater stirring inside Mitchell stemmed from the fact that she had left for France while the dark shroud of 9-11 remained draped over the shoulders of her stunned nation. As the time for her to return home drew closer, a feeling she had missed - the surge of patriotism and the call to serve her fellow countrymen - grew stronger. I doubt many of us would have taken the extraordinary steps Mitchell did one year after terrorists leveled the twin towers, to relearn what it means to be American. Yet, when you talk with Mitchell, even for a short while, you learn her life is nothing less than a series of extraordinary steps one after another after another.
Mitchell has cerebral palsy and has lived most of her 34 years of life in either a manual or power wheelchair. It has done little to slow her down. Her tenacity, intelligence and "can-do-anything and go-anywhere-attitude" is highly infectious. As a little girl, she was determined to be just like all the other kids regardless of the fact she was in a wheelchair. Occasionally, her determination would leave her hanging in the most unlikely places.
After about 10 minutes someone must have said, 'Where's Melissa?' " Mitchell said.
After that auspicious adventure, Mitchell's mom laid down a new law that simply said, "First figure out how you're going to get down before you get up."
Without realizing, it "Mom's Monkey Bars Law" has become Mitchell's lifelong mantra. It has infiltrated her life in the most positive ways. Again and again Mitchell had to figure out how to overcome any obstacle, achieve her goals and confront any force that would dare attempt to rob her of her dignity and self-worth. A myriad of monkey bar moments has entered Mitchell's life since that day on the playground and each time she has gotten up and then back down beautifully.
The Americans with Disabilities Act did not exist during Mitchell's school days. There were no elevators or ramps that would allow Mitchell to make it from one class to another on her own. There were, of course, steep stairs, curbs and bumps that were less than wheelchair-friendly. Undaunted, Mitchell taught a few good classmates how to push her wheelchair in just the right way to beat the bumps and curbs and make it to class on-time.
Even with a little support from her good friends, Mitchell was forced to endure the taunts of a juvenile classmate. On several occasions the taunts turned to vicious bullying. On one occasion the words and deeds became mean, ugly, terrifying and haunting. They bombarded her with hurtful profanity that seared her spirit and left her speechless and emotionally drained. Mitchell retreated to the sanctuary of her home. The love of family and friends helped heal the brutality of the bullies rather quickly, but the scars remain in her mind, even today. Mitchell reminds us that things are much different for kids like her.
It can be just awful," Mitchell said. Her experience with bullies may have been foreshadowing an opportunity to help kids who were different in the years to come. Mitchell had always wanted to be a journalist. Even as a little girl she dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter and perhaps someday replacing Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News. Her steps toward achieving her dream included being the editor of her high school newspaper and a bachelor's degree in journalism and French from Central Washington University. Mitchell vividly remembers as graduation day crept closer, fears of the real world crept closer, too.
It seemed to level the playing field, as well as dash the notion Mitchell might be incapable of covering a five-alarm fire in the middle of the night.
At age 8, Mitchell flew wheelchair and all, from Seattle to Prescott, Ariz., to spend two weeks with Nanna, her grandmother. Mitchell's mom carefully marked all of her belongings with green ribbon for easy identification once she reached her destination. The flight to Prescott was the beginning of Mitchell's lifelong love of travel. With each subsequent journey, the miles and complexity of her journeys grew. The real travel eye-popper was her travel abroad. Folks were always amazed a young woman in a wheelchair would fly to a foreign country all alone without hesitation. Everyone admired her courage, but no one had a clue Mitchell was armed with the lessons she learned in the second grade on the playground monkey bars. Few knew she had become a Zen Master at figuring it out, regardless of what continent she and her wheelchair might be resting on. There was virtually nothing she could not do if given a little time, some MacGyver ingenuity, and an occasional Good Samaritan. The figure-it-out skills she learned as a kid then honed via her travels became her virtual Swiss Army Knife.
Her chance to replace Tom Brokaw never materialized, but many incredible opportunities Mitchell could never have
In the summer of 2001, Mitchell worked as an intern in the governor's office for the state of Washington. While there, she was part of the state's team that helped roll out information regarding the launch of HIPAA. She wrote press releases, created newsletters and provided content for various websites as well as traveled statewide giving HIPPA presentations to diverse audiences.
As a Washington Reading Corp tutor, Mitchell touched the lives of many young children with various disabilities. Her presence in her wheelchair was an inspiration to the youngsters. Her work with AmeriCorps helped restore dignity and hope to many communities in need, too. Mitchell's years as the outreach and training coordinator for Mobility International USA provided information, tools and encouragement to members of the disabled community to travel and explore the world. Currently Mitchell works for the University Center for Excellence on Development Disabilities and the Youth Enrichment, Talented and Gifted Program at the University of Oregon. Yes, Mitchell is truly in the middle of everything, but one thing that brings her exceptional joy is her dogs.
Several years ago Mitchell began the process of learning to train dogs to serve people like herself. Her decision to learn to train dogs was generated from her own failed attempt to acquire a service dog some years prior.
I waited for five years and still never got a dog," Mitchell.
After much research, Mitchell figured out there were no laws, rules or regulations to prevent her from training her own dog to serve her needs. So, of course, Mitchell began her quest to find that one-in-a-million puppy that would not succumb to statistics, but learn the more than 80 different commands. After months of searching and looking at many, many dogs,
It drives me crazy, but with my dog I learned a lot about patience," Mitchell said.
She also learned humans are notorious for inconsistency, which could result in a bumpy relationship between dog and man.
For dogs to understand what the trainer wants the dog to do,the trainer's movements, gestures and vocal inflection must be the same, every time. Without consistent commands, the dog will be become confused and frustrated.
Fortunately, Bastein was as smart as Mitchell, and in no time they were on the same page when it came to patience and consistency. They quickly became an awesome team. Now, in her spare time, Mitchell trains dogs to serve other people and is an official evaluator for the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen program. Mitchell has taken her newfound appreciation for patience and consistency to the workplace, too.
There are many words you could use to describe Mitchell, but the one that seem to encompass all her qualities is the word remarkable. Seldom do you find someone with her tenacity,intelligence and can-do spirit, but what really sets her apart is her wisdom. She is wise beyond her years. Credit some of it to her mother who refused to pull-any-punches when it came to teaching her daughter the world would judg

eNews Nov/05 | Latest Issue of A World Awaits You Now Available--Read about U.S. Teens with Disabilities Going Abroad [cached]

Contact: Melissa Mitchell, Mobility International USA -

Elizabeth Emery, Associate Professor of ... [cached]

Elizabeth Emery, Associate Professor of French, Montclair State University and Melissa Mitchell, Outreach and Training Coordinator, National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange

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