An Alvin woman has taken on a cause she has known about for a lifetime.
Amanda Miles was recently asked by Governor Greg Abbott
to sit on the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, and she immediately said she would.
Amanda, known as Mandy, said she would absolutely want to help others.
Born with Cranial Bifida, which is basically a hole in the skull, Mandy went through surgery where a bone graft was done. She has only three of the seven bones in her neck and has a piece of liver growing in her chest. She was also born with a cleft pallet and underwent speech therapy to help her communicate.
At the age of three months, doctors put a plastic plate in her neck, but her body rejected it. They then used a steel plate and six screws to attach it.
She was not able to walk until the age of five, and when she was about 15, the steel plate was removed.
Over the years, she has undergone 13 major surgeries. Today, she has high blood pressure, occasional seizers, and migraines, but medication controls most of these problems.
Melissa McNeil, the director of Americans With Disabilities invited Mandy to apply for the seat and the 48 year-old woman agreed.
With the help of her mom, Judy Zavalla, Mandy filled out an application, created a resume, collected two letters of recommendation and had her photo taken.
When these steps were completed, a package was sent to Gov. Abbott.
A few weeks later, he called her. The governor let her know that several people had applied for the position, which had been vacant for five years, but she had been selected as the best person for the job.
With most of the medical conditions she had faced behind her, Mandy is well qualified for the job that Governor Abbott has asked her to do.
Soon after being assigned her new position, Mandy was sworn in by Justice of the Peace Mike Merkel, signing documents and explaining what her new responsibilities will mean to her and others she can help.
She wore her grandmother’s favorite blouse, in honor of the special lady in her life who recently passed away.
The Council she will be sitting on was looking for someone who could not only understand what people with disabilities face, but had also experienced them.
Mandy is soft spoken and very respectful, but when she feels strongly about something, she is eager to express her opinion.
An excited Mandy, who had sat in on a meeting of the committee in Austin last year, and understood what she had been appointed to, learned that she would be serving a three-year term, which will end in 2025.
“This is for special needs people for funding or any other issues they face,” she said.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities has an impressive $200,000 budget of federal money to work with. They will accept requests for funding from Texas agencies, and review them to determine the best use of the money.
“I think this is good. I know I can do it and am a self-advocate”, she said. “I have never been able to do something like this and I want to be a voice for these people.”
She spent three half-days on Zoom in her first introduction to the board, learning what its goals will be.
Thanks to her mother, Judy, Mandy has accomplished more than was ever expected of a person with so many medical problems.
Meetings will be held in Austin and she and her mom will drive up for them.
The two are more than just daughter and mom. They attend functions, fundraisers and meetings together frequently. “We are kind of like Lucy and Ethel,” laughed Judy.
Mandy, who has cast a ballot at the polls for “years and years” is active in other organizations and is eager to attend her first meeting in person.
She served on the Gulf Coast Self-Advocate board as vice president last year, serves as a member of the Americans With Disabilities Board and is a faithful attendee of South East Church of Christ on Bay Area Blvd.
Mandy says she knows she can make an impact on the needs of others and wants to prove that disabilities don’t disable people.