Antonio Contreras is Dr. Jennifer Camota’s only son. He is 18 years old and in his senior year in high school. Antonio is a tall, friendly young man who has a great memory for people’s names. Antonio played on the basketball team for three years; he ran on the cross-country team for two years; he is a team member of Prete Mere, his social entrepreneurship class project; and he serves as the Buddy Director for the Best Buddies promotional chapter at his school. Antonio enjoys going to Warriors games and attending various basketball camps.
When he’s not busy with school activities and basketball, Antonio loves to play video games, and he helps his mom at home by doing chores and running errands. Antonio was diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). He will be attending Bethel University’s BUILD program in the fall, an inclusive college program for people with IDD.
Jennifer advocated for Antonio to be included in the general education classroom throughout his primary education. When Antonio was entering kindergarten, she attempted to place him in the same private Christian school that she attended as a young girl. Antonio was not accepted because of his disability. He went on to be denied admission by twenty-three faith-based private schools in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
Jennifer knew that this practice of exclusion based on his ability level wasn’t morally right. She conducted academic research across the United States on leaders in the very few faith-based private schools that included students with a variety of special needs and obtained her doctorate degree in Education with a concentration in Leadership and Organization.
Each year as Antonio progressed in the public school system, he gradually spent less time in the general education classroom with his nondisabled peers. When Antonio became a freshman, the school district placed Antonio in a Special Day Class (SDC), which was a highly restrictive environment. Jennifer refused to allow her son to be excluded from the general education classroom. Armed with knowledge about Special Education Law from her doctoral program and the academic research that she personally conducted, she worked with one of the local private schools that had initially rejected Antonio several years earlier and contributed her own funds, expertise, and training resources to start an inclusion program that benefited not only Antonio, but other students who had special needs. Jennifer won her lawsuit against the public school district for reimbursement of her private school tuition.
While Jennifer advocated for her son, she was simultaneously expanding her professional experience of leading corporate operational accounting departments to teaching Leadership and Management courses to graduate business students. She ran the Executive MBA program at the University of San Francisco where she coached corporate executives on career navigation and leadership skills. She also ran external relations for the business school and honed her marketing and sales skills.
Fueled by her years of advocacy for Antonio, Jennifer founded Ability Revolution, Inc. with the purpose of advancing the inclusion of all people with disabilities through giving inspirational keynote speeches, authoring books on the topic of inclusion, and by providing leadership coaching, organizational consulting, and diversity training to companies and organizations that are preparing to be inclusive of people of all abilities. Jennifer is tenacious in working to remove the restrictive barriers that hinder people with disabilities from being fully included in all areas of society.