Though different paths led them to Northeast Arc, Fiona Hult and Evan Kettenring can thank the same fellowship program for helping them to be the leaders they are today.

Both Hult and Kettenring participated in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, run through UMass Chan Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center. The program provides graduate-level interdisciplinary training to improve the health of youth with developmental disabilities. LEND fellows learn to rethink the ways in which health care, services and supports are delivered to youth and their families, and develop the knowledge, skills and tools to make policy recommendations, devise new training strategies and lead systems change efforts.

Hult, a residential supervisor, joined Northeast Arc in 2008 as a direct support professional. She was an international recruit, having earned her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Stirling in Scotland. She earned her graduate certificate in nonprofit human service management from Suffolk University, in partnership with the Providers’ Council, and has been a residential supervisor since 2017, overseeing a cluster of residential houses. She completed the LEND fellowship in 2021, and the seminar on family and community perspectives still resonates with her. It gave her the opportunity to participate in, observe and learn about the day-to-day concerns of those with disabilities and their families.

“It broadened my perspective,” said Hult. “There was a family of a young child with autism who mentored me. It was really helpful to see where they were coming from before adult services and the struggles they faced. Everyone has very different experiences, but it gave me the ability to stop and think about those experiences. I have more empathy, and that impacts how I approach things now.”

“At this level, we’re pulled in so many different directions and it’s possible to become disconnected from the individual, but I don’t want to do that,” she continued. “That’s why we do what we do. We want to connect with the people we serve.”

Kettenring, who joined Northeast Arc as a house manager in 2015, has served as remote support and independent living director since May. He earned his bachelor’s in psychology and mental health from Plymouth State University and his certificate in nonprofit human service management from Suffolk, in partnership with the Providers’ Council. He completed the LEND fellowship in 2019. One of the most rewarding and challenging parts of the experience for him was exploring a need in the field and designing and implementing a project to address it.

“I grew so much professionally,” said Kettenring. “They ask you to do things that you’ve never done before, and you’re working with med students and doctors. In the beginning, I felt very intimidated, but they’re just people and they’re asking you for advice.”

For both Hult and Kettenring, the program was also a pipeline to earn their Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) in disability and health policy through Suffolk University. In addition to the LEND core curriculum, they were able to take courses on Saturdays as MPA candidates.

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