By Curt Yeomans
Tameeka Hunter, assistant director of Clayton State University's Disability Resource Center, thought it would be just another e-mail from the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities last week when she received a message entitled "2008 C. Anthony Cunningham Council Member of the Year."
Hunter, who has been a member of the council since 2002 and leads its governance committee, usually receives meeting and agenda updates from the council, so she expected the e-mail to be a "For Your Information" notice. Still the title piqued her curiosity, so she opened it, as she wondered which one of her fellow council members received the award this year.
To her surprise, the name listed was -- Tameeka Hunter.
"It wasn't even on my radar, not because I haven't contributed to the council -- because I have -- but because I wasn't thinking about it," Hunter said.
Hunter, 35, who has cerebral palsy, will receive the award on July 17 at the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities' Making a Difference Annual Appreciation Ceremony in Atlanta. The award recognizes council members who have acted as leaders during the past year. It is named in honor of former council chairperson Carl Cunningham, who died a decade ago while leading the group.
The council works to improve the lives of people with disabilities, while also educating society about what these people can contribute to their communities. In the past year, Hunter served on several ad hoc committees which dealt with issues such as grants and advocacy, in addition to sitting on the governance committee.
"Tameeka is No. 1, one of the people that Carl Cunningham was trying to help. And now she is looking forward to the next generation and what they need through her work with college students," said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities. "This is someone who has been successful in her life, and she strives to help others do the exact same thing."
Born with what she calls "C.P.," Hunter knows the challenges of living a normal life while trying to break down the stereotypes which exist about people with disabilities. She uses crutches, or sometimes, a small scooter to move around.
When she was a student at Georgia State University in the 1990s, Hunter was almost passed over for an administrative assistant position because her would-be supervisor was unsure about her physical abilities.
"She told me during the interview, 'You probably wouldn't be the right person for this position, because I don't think you'd be able to reach the fifth drawer on the filing cabinets,' " Hunter said. "At first, I was shocked that she said it, but I thanked her for voicing her concern to me, and I then explained that I routinely reached the fifth drawer of a filing cabinet at a previous job I held on campus ...
"I got the job."
After Hunter graduated from Georgia State with a bachelor's degree in business administration, she took a job in 1999 as a disability affairs coordinator for former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. In 2001, she moved on to become a disability services specialist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also completed a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling at Georgia State during this time period.
Two months ago, Hunter took on her new job at Clayton State.
"She's one of those individuals who embodies what we talk about when we discuss people with disabilities having a real life," said Tom Seegmueller, the council's current chairman. "She also epitomizes the new wave of leadership coming from the younger generation. They lead by example, instead of just talking the talk."