Cecily “CC” Akwari is the executive director of Moving Forward, a Napa nonprofit that helps neurodiverse adults live as independently as possible.
Akwari explained how she came to work in the disability services field.
“It began with my mother who had been ill most of her adult life,” said Akwari.
“She suffered from a myriad of illnesses including mental illness.”
Akwari supported her mother at an early age and eventually became her employed caregiver.
“I realized I had a knack for it, and it was very rewarding,” said Akwari.
“As I continued in this field in various roles, I obtained my education, and the rest is history. I have literally worked in every capacity in this industry. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
People are also reading…
1. What was your childhood ambition?
Honestly, to be a Solid Gold dancer!
2. What was your first job?
Olan Mills, Hilltop Mall.
3. What is the biggest challenge the disability services field has faced?
-Budget cuts have been a major problem.
-The lack of advocacy at a legislative level has been impactful for all levels of disability services.
-The lack of accessible mental health services.
-Limited employment with much-needed flexibility for members of the population to have some level of lasting job retention.
These problems lead to low wages for staff and lack of training, culturally competent support, diversified services and optimum oversight for recipients of services.
4. Who do you most admire in the business world?
There was a lady named Ms. Sherri McNeal (who) worked at Cedars of Marin for over 50 years — she taught me so much and was a mentor for me. She literally was in this field when people who looked like me had to enter through the back door. I can never repay what she imparted to me. She was the heartbeat of the organization. I endeavor to work with as much dignity and love as she did.
When I was working my way up the ladder as a single mother with young kids, she was often the Easter Bunny and Santa to my children. She would go above and beyond for the staff and residents. Rest in Peace Ms. Sherri.
5. What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?
Many businesses took a hit with COVID, and many companies are looking for workers. I often hear that there aren’t enough employees … but there are! They may need accommodations, they may need flexible schedules, they may need accessible transportation, but there is a population of people that are willing to work, they are dedicated and looking for an opportunity.
That wonderful group of individuals are the neurodivergent population of Napa County and city. Napa would benefit from a plan that includes willing workers from all abilities and backgrounds, that would be a great place to start.
6. If you could change one thing about the disability services industry, what would it be?
That all recipients of support in my field would have easy access to mental health services if needed.
7. What’s your favorite gift to give?
Love. It’s cheap and always appreciated.
8. What’s your favorite charity or nonprofit?
Tough question. I have the pleasure of heading Moving Forward Towards Independence, so there is a bias. Other than our wonderful organization: St. Jude.
9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I am really an introvert.
10. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
I would like to be the conduit for family healing at a national level for as many people that I possibly can.
Moving Forward is located at 68 Coombs St. in Napa, 707-259-1125, moving-forward.org
In this Series
Get to know Napa County's local entrepreneurs and businesspersons in 10 Questions
Napa 10 Questions: Starting his own social media/marketing business was a 'no-brainer' for Gavin Armendariz
Napa 10 Questions: Serendipity (and soccer) lead to wine industry career
Napa 10 Questions: Always 'Moving Forward': ED of Napa nonprofit works with neurodiverse adults
- 50 updates