Every month we celebrate a different community and the contributions of one member to the work of creating a more inclusive world. September is National Hispanic Heritage Month. To celebrate, KIT Chief Inclusionista and CEO, Torrie Dunlap, CPLP, shines the KIT Spotlight brightly on Diego Mariscal, social entrepreneur and founder of two nonprofit organizations.
Torrie’s Commentary on Diego:
It is a delight for me to see the KIT Spotlight shining on Diego Mariscal, Founder and Chief Disabled Officer of 2Gether International. I met Diego in 2016 when he was on a panel I moderated at the South by Southwest education conference (SXSWEdu). Since then, we’ve stayed in close touch, and it has been a joy to watch him develop as a leader and an entrepreneur.
Diego started his entrepreneurship journey early. He told me a story that he asked another boy to play with him when he was a child growing up in Mexico. The boy said he couldn’t play with him because “My dad doesn’t let me play with weird kids.” Diego’s takeaway from this formative experience was that he could help change the way people think about disability. So, at age 18, he founded a nonprofit in Monterrey, Mexico called Limitless Prepa Tec, whose mission was to provide disability awareness programs for students. The program expanded to seven high schools across Mexico and is still operating today.
Diego’s experience as an entrepreneur, and his crucial insight about living with cerebral palsy, fueled his next venture, 2Gether International (2GI). Diego realized that the attributes of entrepreneurship align well with the disability experience, and he wanted to help people with disabilities start and grow businesses. Diego says that people who experience life with a disability constantly problem-solve to get through the day in a world that wasn’t built for them. He wanted to help people turn this lived experience into innovation and creativity. So far, more than 300 entrepreneurs with disabilities have been a part of 2GI programs. In October, a new incubator for tech-based businesses will launch, with support from Google for Startups.
If you meet Diego or attend one of 2GI’s quarterly pitch competitions, you will see that he possesses an incredible amount of charisma. But, Diego is so much more than his charming personality. He is intelligent, tenacious, optimistic, and has an unmatchable work ethic. He’s built 2GI while finishing a challenging course of study at George Washington University. My favorite Diego anecdote might be in his creative fundraising technique. In the early days of 2GI, he would meet prospective donors by getting in an Uber pool car during rush hour and pitch his co-riders on his mission. Diego is the whole package, and I can’t wait to see how 2GI grows to solve the ever-present problem of the lack of employment opportunities for disabled adults.
I’m grateful for Diego’s friendship. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I always leave a conversation with Diego feeling more upbeat than I was before. It’s an honor to recognize Diego’s innovation and leadership in creating more inclusion as our KIT Spotlight this month.
Check out his work and consider supporting the work of 2Gether International here https://secure.givelively.org/donate/2gether-international-inc
If you’d like to get to know more about Diego, you can check out his Tedx talk to hear how he helps us see the concept of “disability” from a different perspective and uses his personal experiences and perseverance through adversity to illustrate a more global understanding of inclusiveness. Oh, and by the way, he also earned the first gold medal in swimming for his state in the paraolympics!