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Friday, March 1

Leinani Walter

A picture of Leinani Walter

Let’s Talk Story about “Kokua”

Kokua is a Hawaiian word that literally means “to help” but the true meaning in Hawaiian culture is to build a sense of community, cooperation, and reciprocity. Leinani will share more about kokua and how this philosophy has helped to share her professional and personal journey in developmental services.

We are honored to have Leinani Walter as our keynote speaker on Friday March 1st! Leinani Walter serves as the Executive Director of Valley Mountain Regional Center Center (VMRC). Prior to this appointment, Leinani was appointed by Governor Newsom in March of 2020 as the Assistant Deputy and then Chief Equity Officer at the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) overseeing the Service Access and Equity Division. In these roles, she advanced equity and culturally and linguistically competent services throughout the developmental services system. Prior to her appointments, Leinani served as the Director of Program Operations for the Association of Regional Center Agencies for three years working in the areas of service coordination, housing, foster youth, and employment. For 18 years, Leinani was the Clients’ Rights Advocate II at Disability Rights California, Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy representing VMRC consumers and their families in regional center, public benefits, special education, civil rights, and employment cases. Prior to her legal advocacy work, Leinani was a Service Coordinator at VMRC and earlier worked as an Independent Living Skills service provider at Harbor Regional Center (HRC) in Los Angeles County while in college. Leinani has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from California State University Long Beach and a Juris Doctor degree from University of Connecticut School of Law. Leinani is Native Hawaiian and the sister of Fred who has Down syndrome and is supported by Alta California Regional Center (ACRC).

Saturday, March 2

Dr. Elizabeth Morgan

A picture of Dr. Elizabeth Morgan

Intersecting Identities: Navigating Advocacy for Black Families of Children on the Autism Spectrum

In this keynote presentation, we’ll delve into the intricate intersection of race and disability, exploring the roots and definition of intersectionality. Through personal anecdotes and advocacy stories, we’ll illuminate the nuanced challenges and triumphs faced by Black families advocating for children on the autism spectrum.

We are honored to have Elizabeth Morgan as our keynote on Saturday March 2nd! Dr. Elizabeth H. Morgan, is a passionate educator, researcher, and advocate for disability rights and inclusion, is committed to empowering BIPOC mothers and ensuring equitable access to services for their children. Her dedication began during her tenure as a K-12 teacher and administrator. Her journey continued as she delved into research and scholarship at the UC Davis MIND Institute and California State University Sacramento, refining her skills in supporting underserved communities.

Dr. Morgan's focus extends to the African continent, where she has undertaken significant work in Ghana, Kenya, and Morocco. Recently, she completed a global public health fellowship in Nairobi, solidifying her commitment to social justice.

As a professor, Dr. Morgan strives to amplify marginalized voices through impactful community-based applied research projects and to prepare the next generation of educational leaders and disability rights advocates. Her website: offers a glimpse into her work, showcasing research projects, publications, teaching/speaking engagements, and leadership.

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