Alumni Column

Attending a small campus opened many doors that wouldn’t have been available on larger campus. Unlike my upbringing in Barre, which had a very homogenous population, the small campus atmosphere allowed me to explore friendships and working-studying relationships with a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds.Being appointed yearbook editor for three years and winning recognition on campus for my volunteer activities prepared me for a professional history that integrated these skills into my drive to develop a business that would explore my social interests and willingness to help others.

Eighteen years passed quickly with a short teaching stint, graduate school and working in the Department of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mid-life crises come at different times in one’s life and by the time I was 38, it was time to make a career change, and what a change.

Going from Barre, Vt. to Hollywood isn’t exactly your typical move. Within months of arriving in Los Angeles I became affiliated with a business that coordinated celebrity involvement with non-profit events.

Although this relationship was short-lived, it laid the foundation for my own company, Damon Brooks Associates, a service that I established to combine my close relationship with the celebrity community and those in need of their service. As fate would have it, I was participating in an event at, of all places, the Playboy Mansion, when one of the celebrities with whom I was working told me about a neighbor who was a speaker and comedian.

My trip to hear him would change my business and my direction for life. The person who I saw perform had a rare form of muscular dystrophy, used a wheelchair and had many physical abnormalities.

Gene sold his talent, not his disability. I was able to secure several engagements for him and as the adage goes, the rest is history. Fifteen years have passed and I am proud to have been nationally recognized for establishing this one-of-a-kind service with an appointment to the Governor of California’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, past co-chair of the national Media Access Committee and involvement at all levels with the advocacy of those with a disability.

Our firm was recently awarded the exclusive distribution rights to WINDMILLS, a program designed to “Shatter Attitudinal Barriers.”

Perhaps things really haven’t changed that much. Today we are struggling with attitude and stereotypes. In the mid-sixties while at Castleton, we had a student in the teacher education program who was very effeminate. The big decision by staff was whether to let him do his student teaching or to even let him graduate with a degree in education. It’s strange how some things can move so quickly and yet our attitudes can linger for generations.

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