Allilsa Fernandez: Jamaica, NY

Allilsa Fernandez is currently a governmental policy, research, and public communications intern at the Daniels Initiative. She has tracked policies on our criminal justice system and voting rights, worked on a legislation of her interest involving mental health, and researched the disability community in Europe and the disability language to organize a panel discussion.

Allilsa’s personal experience with disabilities informs and inspires her activism for disability rights. Allilsa graduated magna cum laude from Stony Brook University in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, despite being told she would never be able to attend school because of her struggles with psychosis.

She founded Peer Mental Health Alliance, an organization on campus that provides resources for mental health through literature, peer-to-peer support, and creative arts programming, which aims to end the stigma associated with mental illness.

Allilsa was also an undergraduate representative for the President’s ADA Committee and a mentor for the Accelerated College Education (ACE) program to provide guidance and resources to incoming students with disabilities. She also participated in the Participatory Action Research (PAR), a university research program that enlists students with disabilities to provide the administration with feedback on accessibility issues. Furthermore, Allilsa was a member of the student advisory board for Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring (DREAM), where she worked on accessibility and inclusion issues in higher education nationwide.

During her time at Stony Brook University, Allilsa received numerous awards from the Student Affairs and the LGBTQ Center for her distinguished service and leadership on campus. She also served on the boards of various mental health, disability, and LGBTQ+ organizations.

Through her activism, Allilsa made landmark changes at the university: requiring captions for videos produced by the undergraduate student government; providing information about accommodations on all material for university events; and ensuring that the ADA automated buttons on campus are operational, and if not, where to report them to be fixed in a timely matter.

Allilsa’s activism has been featured in local and national media, including in Forbes, Latina Rising, Newsday, the Statesman, Stony Brook University News, News 12, SbPress, TBR, Ignite National, Students with Schizophrenia, NW ADA center, and Stony Brook Independent. Her post on Facebook of her personal story went viral, appearing in several blogs and podcasts.

For Allilsa, the Coelho Center Law Fellowship is an opportunity to learn to navigate law school and a legal career while having a disability.

In her leisure time, she enjoys writing poetry, performing spoken word, and playing the piano by ear.