(Washington, D.C. – Oct. 26, 2011) – Moira Rossi of Jacksonville, Fla. received big news today when National Disability Institute and "Breaking Bad" actor RJ Mitte surprised her at a University of North Florida event to announce she won National Disability Institute’s My American Dream – Voices of Americans with Disabilities video contest and that Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, will serve as her mentor as she pursues her acting career.
Rossi, a 24 year old with Down syndrome who has studied theater since age 8, was one of five finalists in National Disability Institute’s video contest encouraging persons with disabilities to share their American dreams to show that all Americans have a dream for their futures – disability or not. Rossi’s video received the most votes on the contest website, making her the grand prize winner of $1,000, an iPad and sessions with a mentor to help her move toward her dream.
National Disability Institute and Mitte surprised Rossi with the news of her win during a self-advocacy meeting for persons with disabilities at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville, where she graduated from the ARC Jacksonville On Campus Transition Program. National Disability Institute team members presented Rossi with her cash prize and iPad, while Mitte joined via video conference to meet Rossi and let her know he would be serving as her mentor.
"National Disability Institute began this contest to show that Americans with disabilities want a piece of the American dream. Being financially independent, building a great career, starting a business, owning a home or going to college are dreams we all share," said Michael Morris, Executive Director of National Disability Institute, one of the first national non-profit organizations dedicated exclusively to building a better economic future for all people with disabilities. "National Disability Institute is honored to work with Moira to build on the great foundation she has created for her future. We are also excited to have RJ Mitte lend his time and talent to help her take the next important steps in her career."
"Having mentors who are doing what you want to do is a major key to succeeding in life. I am honored to be working with Moira to pursue her dream and to help her in any way I can to reach her goals," said Mitte, who plays Walter Whilte Jr. on the Emmy winning AMC show "Breaking Bad". Mitte, a spokesperson for National Disability Institute, travels the country speaking at high schools, colleges and universities about his life with cerebral palsy and how he has achieved his personal and professional goals through hard work, dedication and the support of his friends, families and colleagues.
"This is a really great honor to be chosen to be working with the top people that I always wanted to work with since I was 8. I’ve been studying theater since I was 8 years old and apparently it has paid off," said Rossi after being surprised with the news.
Rossi and Mitte will have several mentoring meetings, where the two will assess where Rossi is in her career and create a strategy to help her take steps to reach her goals. Rossi has appeared in more than 25 local productions and public service announcements, including productions on the UNF campus.
For more information on National Disability Institute’s My American Dream Video Contest, to view the surprise announcement or view Rossi’s contest video, visit the contest website at http://dream.realeconomicimpact.org.
About National Disability Institute
National Disability Institute (NDI) is national non-profit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities. The first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities, National Disability Institute effects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives such as the Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour, which brings tax and financial education for people with disabilities to more than 100 cities nationwide. To learn more, visit www.realeconomicimpact.org.
About RJ Mitte
RJ Mitte is a co-star on the Emmy winning show "Breaking Bad" on AMC. He is also an advocate for human rights and persons with disabilities. As a child, RJ Mitte learned the value of helping others and giving to the community through the close relationship he shared with his grandfather, Roy F. Mitte, and the philanthropic work he did around the world. The senior Mitte’s partnering with Habitat groups to build houses for communities devastated by natural disasters and poverty gave Mitte Jr. a rare, up close encounter with people in need that influences his life today in Hollywood. With the assistance of his personal manager, Addison Witt, RJ continues the legacy his grandfather began, and travels the country doing his part to make a difference.
National Disability Institute