Partnered for Success: Nonprofit Empowers Youth with Disabilities

Partners of Youth with Disabilities (PYD) was founded in 1995 on the idea that mentoring is an instrumental factor in youth development. Founder and current Executive Director Regina Snowden used to work for one such mentoring program until she saw a number of cases of youth with disabilities falling under the radar. In response, she started a small program that matched 9 youths with disabilities, with adults with the same disability. Pairing youths with adult role models facing the same challenges and similar life experiences, the program has become a huge success. 

To this day, mentoring is very much at the core of PYD. “Mentor Match is still our largest and oldest program,” said PYD Communications Manager Steve Slowinski. “We now have about 100 active matches at any given point in time, but we’ve slowly been adding programs, local and national, as more people have been clamoring for more services.”

One of those new programs is a collaboration with the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) called Access to Theater. It consists of weekend workshops through the Fall and Spring on theater art schemes, theater games, and improvisation. Over the summer, the BCA Cyclorama hosts a two-week all-day theater camp. “The BCA has been a fantastic partner for over 10 years,” Steve said. “To have such a professional space for our youth to work in and create an original production with set designs and different decorations for the space, is really huge for them.”

And while youth gain self-esteem, self-confidence, and increase their social skills, mentors get just as much out of the relationship. Kate Crawford joined PYD in 2012, and the experience changed her life. A Providence College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing, she worked in sales, all the while feeling like some- thing was missing. She heard of PYD and thought it would be something to do on the side. It just so happened that Kate and 18-year-old Becky Haile were a perfect match. The two would regularly bowl, eat out, and practice independent life-skills such as cooking healthy meals. When Becky’s special education services were cut off once she turned 22, Kate helped her successfully transition into an independent life and find a job at a local Goodwill store.

“Becky calls whenever we have plans coming up and always asks me what I’m going to wear so she can wear the same thing,” Kate said. The experience sparked a big career jump for her. She just completed an Education in Moderate and Severe Disabilities master’s at Lesley University and hopes to work as a transition specialist.

Just the Facts, Ma’am


  • 86% have a more positive attitude toward school because of their mentor
  • 68% are more empowered to take ownership of their life
  • 70% gain more autonomy and independence


  • 97% of Access to Theatre participants reported significant improvement in their comfort levels with meeting new people
  • 78% reported enhanced team-working skills
  • 87% reported an increased ability to advocate for their needs


  • 85% of YEP participants said they were more likely to further their education after high school and had a greater awareness of career opportunities
  • 85% of youth participating in Making Healthy Connections are more comfortable meeting new people and feel less isolated
  • 57% of youth are more interested in living independently
  • 71% of youth are more aware of available resources


  • 98% of workshop attendees “strongly agree” that they better understand the definition of “inclusion” and benefits to being inclusive
  • 97% of workshop attendees “agree” that they feel more confident engaging people with disabilities in their programming
  • 97% of workshop attendees “agree” that they are better able to communicate in an inclusive manner 

For more information on how to get involved with Partners of Youth with Disabilities, visit

Find this story and more in our Fall 2016 South End Stakeholders' Report. Read all about the latest real estate trends, forecasts, and an in-depth look at the South End community.