2022 Focus on
People Awards

Student category


Mercy Botchway

Everett, MA

Mercy believes a mentor is essential to building a sense of community that understands and accepts you. She also believes that once you’ve experienced the benefits of a mentor, it can inspire you to want to do the same for others. And she is doing just that. Her passion to create positive experiences for others with disabilities inspired her to found Youth Disability Empowerment (YDE). Through social channels and national media, she shares her story, opening doors for people with disabilities and inspiring others to mentor. In 2021, she received the American Association of People with Disabilities’ Heumann-Armstrong Award. Mercy, who was born in Ghana and moved to the US in 2012, is a first-year student at Ithaca College.


Erin Cembrale

Dunedin, FL

Erin views her hearing loss as a strength – one that has motivated her to try harder and never give up. Her commitment has paid off for the college senior and soccer phenom. Since age 3, she has played for many clubs, high school and college teams and most recently for the US Deaf Women’s National Team (USDWNT). In May, her team captured the gold in the Deaflympics in Brazil. In 2023, she will travel to Korea with the USDWNT to compete in the World Cup. Determined and compassionate, Erin inspires and mentors young soccer players with disabilities. Off the field, she is an orientation leader, student recruiter and vice president of the Student Athletic Association Club at Huntingdon College.


Lauren Harris

Knoxville, TN

Lauren, who wears cochlear implants, has never let hearing loss limit her. Always active in sports and academics, it wasn’t until college that she found her true calling. Today, she is completing her doctorate in audiology, connecting with patients on a deeper, shared level with the help of her “partner in crime” Elroy, a hearing service dog. A top student, she will present her research, Listening Fatigue Among Adolescents with Hearing Loss, at the 2022 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association national conference. Her “Hearing Lauren” blog on Instagram is upbeat and full of real-life solutions for those struggling with hearing loss. Lauren also volunteers for the Hearing Loss Association of America and provides social content for the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

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