By Tatiana Peralta

If there's one thing Shannon Green wants people to know about her, it's that her wheelchair doesn't define her.

Her strong will and unconquerable spirit combine to make her a passionate advocate for causes close to her heart. That's why she was determined to speak out in support of employment opportunities for people with disabilities during the 2019 SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference.

When Shannon Green raises her voice, people listen. It's the reason she's the winner of this year's Grassroots Advocacy Conference social media challenge.

The Challenge

Social media has become a vital tool in the world of advocacy. As self-advocates and SourceAmerica nonprofit members from across the country converged in Washington, D.C. for this year's Grassroots Advocacy Conference, we launched a social media challenge encouraging attendees to post using the hashtag #SAgrassroots2019 and share photos. Shannon Green's content quickly caught the eye of everyone following the hashtag.

Shannon at Work and at Play

Shannon oversees checking badges to ensure building security for Phoenix, a SourceAmerica nonprofit member in Huntsville, Alabama. When we asked what makes her job so special, she said the organization's flexibility and willingness to go the extra mile so she can take care of her needs makes this job stand out over others. Shannon has found a new family within Phoenix – one with which she shares an irreplaceable bond. She was grateful to have her colleagues with her at the conference.

Outside of work and her advocacy efforts, Shannon enjoys bowling, swimming and running. She joined her town's Ainsley's Angel program which has accessible race chairs so anyone who can't run can become a rider. When her town lost their Ainsley's ambassador, Shannon bought her own chair and filled the void. She is now training for a marathon with her husband! Running has become a big part of her life.

Shannon happens to be a previous Ms. Wheelchair Alabama. When a former Ms. Wheelchair told Shannon to "go for it" back in 2011, Shannon did not hesitate and signed up right away. Just like in beauty pageants, Shannon had to do interviews and training. The big difference – Ms. Wheelchair Alabama focuses on advocacy. Shannon won after delivering a speech. She was both surprised and excited; it's an honor she will cherish forever.

Shannon's Experience at Grassroots

Shannon heard about the Grassroots Advocacy Conference over a year ago and knew instantly she wanted to attend. Phoenix's leadership supported her. The organization's CEO and President, David Perez, said that as soon as Shannon mentioned wanting to go, she was a shoe-in.

Being a part of a conference regarding employment is something that Shannon truly valued. She wanted her voice to be heard on a national level and appreciated the chance to sit down with her representatives to discuss the importance of the AbilityOne® contracts and long-lasting employment for people with disabilities.

Going through the Grassroots Conference training helped hone Shannon's advocacy skills more than ever. The Celebration of Stories event was one of her favorite sessions because it gave her a clear perspective of the different challenges people are facing.

When we caught up with Shannon as the conference began, she mentioned feeling a little overwhelmed but excited. Today, Shannon feels relaxed, confident and empowered to talk to anyone about the importance of employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Importance of Advocacy

Before Shannon came to work at Phoenix, she had an encounter with someone who told her that if they were in her shoes they wouldn't work – they would just sit back and take disability money. That experience made her realize she wanted to speak up and let people know that those with a disability not only need employment but want it as well. "People need to see that; they need to hear it and they need to know it," she told us. If she can just touch one person's heart or mind, she feels like she's done enough.

As far as social media goes, Shannon puts everything out there. She understands the importance of sharing and advocating for all types of issues. She talked about how her county is starting to participate in a recycling program and how she enjoys sharing the news and encouraging people to get their recycling bins out.

Shannon attributes her social media challenge win to her huge support system of family and friends. They are often the first ones who will click the "like" and "share" buttons to help her spread her story and amplify her voice.

We're looking forward to seeing how Shannon will use social media to share her story and bring awareness to important issues surrounding the disability community.