Sarah Triano didn’t consider herself disabled when she was growing up in the South Shore.
People couldn’t see the South Lake Tahoe native’s immune deficiency disorder or her depression. So when she won the Hal Connolly Scholar Athlete Award in 1992 and was selected to attend the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities, she didn’t want to go. Unlike many of the other students accepted to the forum, Triano’s disability was hidden.
She didn’t know that the Sacramento-based event would shape her future career and her work as a disability rights activist.
“At the forum, even though I had a disability that was different, I still connected with the other students. I learned that having a disability isn’t a bad thing,” Triano said.
Triano’s mother, Carolyn, said the multiple-day leadership program that provides information for students with disabilities to develop independence changed her daughter’s life.
“It was one of the best things that could have happened to her. It gave her a new identity,” she said.
Sarah Triano began work as the executive officer of the California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Monday, completing a 21-year circle that started at the Sacramento event. As the leader of the committee, Triano will make policy recommendations to Gov. Jerry Brown and oversee the organization that runs the youth forum.
It’s a career path that proves people with disabilities shouldn’t be underestimated, Triano said, but it wasn’t easy overcoming the attitudes she encountered after graduating from South Tahoe High School.
A counselor in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s rehabilitation department told Triano, who at the time dreamed of working as a legislative analyst in the president’s office, that she was too frail for such lofty goals and should aim to be a receptionist instead. When Triano was denied testing accommodations for the LSAT, she filed a class action lawsuit in 1997.
Years later and just weeks before Triano completed her dissertation for the world’s first disability studies PhD program at the University of Illinois, Chicago, she was denied healthcare because of her pre-existing condition.
“I think one of the greatest barriers to people with disabilities is attitude. The ways our laws are structured make people with disabilities feel like they can’t work,” Triano said.
Doctors had repeatedly told Triano she would likely never have children, so when she became pregnant in 2008 it came as “a big shock” to her, she said.
She moved back to California the following year with her baby boy and husband, Jason Lopez, her high school sweetheart. The relocation was prompted partly to be closer to family, all of whom still lived in South Lake Tahoe, according to Triano. That “village of support” is crucial, especially for someone with disabilities, she said.
In the upcoming months and years, Triano hopes to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from finding work. California currently ranks last in the country when it comes to employing people with disabilities, Triano said.
And if someone tells her she can’t do it, she’ll prove them wrong, Carolyn Triano attested.
“I see people saying all the time, ‘You can’t.’ It’s through sheer determination that people have gone on to be great,” she said. “(Sarah and Jason) are both really good examples of the education in South Lake Tahoe. Both went to university, they both graduated and they both have gone on to do amazing, exciting things.”
In other news
LTCC hosts free Math and Science Career Day
A free Math and Science Career Day for girls in grades six through 10 will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lake Tahoe Community College.
The conference, sponsored by the Association of University Women, South Lake Tahoe Branch and LTCC, will feature workshops created by local women using math and science skills at work.
For more information, contact Bev Palley at 530-544-2724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LTUSD accepts kindergarten, transitional kindergarten registrations
Lake Tahoe Unified School District is accepting registrations for kindergarten at all elementary schools from April 29 through May 10.
To be eligible for enrollment, a child must be 5 years of age on or before Oct. 1. If your child was born after Oct. 1 and on or before Dec. 2, he or she qualifies for transitional kindergarten — a two-year kindergarten program.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to pre-register, call your neighborhood elementary school: Bijou Community School, 530-543-2337; Sierra House Elementary School, 530-543-2327; Tahoe Valley Elementary School, 530-543-2350.
STHS ranked in Washington Post’s most challenging schools list
The Washington Post ranked South Tahoe High School 166 out of 223 schools in California and 1,386 nationwide in the newspaper’s list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools.
The school rose 45 places since 2011.
The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews has ranked the most challenging schools in the country and the D.C. region for 15 years, according to a press release.
STHS senior awarded $20,000 scholarship
South Tahoe High School Advancement Via Individual Determination senior Brenda Yan was named a 2013 Dell Scholar.
Yan is one of 303 students nationwide to win the $20,000 scholarship and a new laptop for college.
According to the Dell Scholars website, the program recognizes academic potential and determination in students who have a need for financial assistance.
New county associate superintendent to start July
Ed Manansala will start work as El Dorado County’s new associate superintendent of educational services July 1.
Manansala will replace Jeremy Meyers, who was appointed county superintendent after Vicki Barber retired at the end of the school year, according to a county press release.
Manansala comes to the county from the Sacramento City Unified School District where he currently works at interim chief of staff. He obtained his doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of California, Davis.