LUMBERTON, Texas — A Lumberton teen has been appointed to Governor Greg Abbott's Committee on People with Disabilities.
Benjamin Willis is a sophomore at Veritas Classical Academy in Beaumont and has volunteered at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where he served as the Southeast Texas Goodwill Ambassador, according to the governor's website.
He also competed in the 2021 and 2022 Texas High School Mock Trial Competition and is set to graduate in 2024.
The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities recommends changes in disability policies and programs, supports a network of committees on people with disabilities, issues awards to promote greater awareness and promotes compliance with disability related laws, according to the website.
Abbott has appointed Benjamin Willis and reappointed Kori Allen, Evelyn Cano, Richard Martinez, Joseph Muñiz, and Emma Faye Rudkin to the committee, which is set to expire on Feb. 1, 2024.
Willis is the only grade school student currently on the committee.
From Office of the Texas Governor Greg Abbott website:
Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Benjamin Willis and reappointed Kori Allen, Evelyn Cano, Richard Martinez, Joseph Muñiz, and Emma Faye Rudkin to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities for terms set to expire on February 1, 2024. Additionally, the Governor named Richard Martinez as chair. The committee recommends changes in disability policies and programs, supports a network of committees on people with disabilities, issues awards to promote greater awareness, and promotes compliance with disability related laws.
Benjamin Willis of Lumberton is a student at Veritas Classical Academy. He has volunteered at the Muscular Dystrophy Association where he served as the Southeast Texas Goodwill Ambassador. Additionally, he competed in the 2021 and 2022 Texas High School Mock Trial Competition. Willis will graduate in 2024.
Kori Allen of Plano is ADA & Capital Programs Coordinator for the City of Coppell. She is Committee Chair of the City of Coppell ADA Liaison and is certified as a Change Practitioner through Prosci working to gain the buy-in and support of patrons in Coppell for the advancement of accessibility changes. Additionally, she is Vice President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Little People of America and a volunteer for Metrocrest Services. Allen received a Bachelor of Science in Health Studies from The University of Texas at Tyler, and is working toward certification by the Texas Accessibility Academy as a Registered Accessibility Specialist.
Evelyn Cano of Pharr is co-owner of Grande Produce LTD and Cano & Sons Trucking. She is the parent of a self-advocate with autism and the co-founder and president of the Disability Chamber of Commerce-RGV, which is the fourth cross-disability chamber of commerce in the nation, and works on integrative employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Additionally, she serves on the board of Disability Rights Texas. Previously, she served on the board of AWARE RGV (Advocates Working to Provide Autism Resources and Education), as interim executive director of the Capable Kids Foundation in the Rio Grande Valley, and as a certified bilingual educator for McAllen ISD. She is a member of the Council of Parent Advocates Attorneys and a member of the International Museum of Arts & Sciences Education Committee. Cano received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington.
Richard Martinez of San Antonio works in the Office of Diversity and Federal Compliance for VIA Metropolitan Transit, helping to ensure that all Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Small Business Enterprise certified firms have the maximum opportunity to bid on architectural, engineering, construction, professional services, goods, and other contracts. He served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush in the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Executive Office of the President. Additionally, he served as the District Director for Congressman Henry Bonilla of San Antonio and has worked for multiple statewide elected officials, the Texas Department of Transportation, and as an assistant to the Border Commerce Coordinator in the Office of the Secretary of State. He is a graduate of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Alex Briseño Leadership Development Program and is a former parish council member and a former Archbishop’s Appeal Chair for St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. Martinez received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Texas A&M International University.
Joseph Muñiz of Harlingen is a retired assistant library director for the City of Harlingen. He previously served as a board member of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Governing Board. He is a past member of the Texas Commission for the Blind and past vice presiding officer of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Council. Muniz received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Texas A&M University.
Emma Faye Rudkin of Boerne is Executive Director and founder of Aid the Silent, a nonprofit that advocates for deaf and hard of hearing children. Aid the Silent has given away over $1 million in hearing aids since its inception in 2015.. Through Aid the Silent, she organizes the annual Good Vibrations Music and Arts Festival, the largest all-day, deaf accessible festival in the United States. She is also a musician and speaker, and was a finalist in the Miss Texas Pageant in 2017 In 2020, she created “Hank and Emma Faye” signing time segments with her hearing service dog on KLRN PBS, which won an Emmy. Recently, Emma won Outstanding Young Rotarian award in San Antonio. Rudkin received a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Nonprofit Management from The University of Texas at San Antonio Honors College.