Rayna Ayward is co-founder and co-chair of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, which focuses on strengthening the awareness, quality and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities. Established in 2014, the 50-member Coalition hosts the Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, honoring exceptional individual mentors and mentoring programs across the country.
Rayna also serves as a board member of PolicyWorks, a national nonprofit that promotes mentorships leading to career connections, and teaches English as a second language at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.
As a presidential appointee under President Obama, 2009-2013, Rayna served as Special Assistant to the US Secretary of Education, with a policy focus on college and career readiness and school to work transition. She initiated the Department of Education’s first internship program for youth with disabilities, an interagency collaboration and partnership with the District of Columbia school system that has become a federal model.
From 1991 to 2009, Rayna was Executive Director of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, a corporate foundation serving children and youth with disabilities. As the Foundation’s first executive, she launched several signature programs, including the Congressional Internship Program (in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities), which enables college students with disabilities to take part in summer internships on Capitol Hill. Under her leadership, the Foundation provided the first national funding to such nonprofit organizations as Partners for Youth with Disabilities (Boston), Kids Included Together (San Diego), and Project SEARCH (Cincinnati). Working with the Mitsubishi companies, she also mobilized corporate employees to initiate volunteer programs addressing needs in their local communities.
Rayna has extensive overseas experience, having served as a teacher, journalist, and diplomat in Latin America and the Middle East. Throughout her career, education, inclusion, and cross-cultural communications have been priority themes.
A Chicago native, Rayna received a BA in English from Beloit College and an MA in Literature from Boston University.