Awards a highlight of The Arc annual banquet

arc-awardsThe Arc Minnesota honored several groups and individuals with awards at its annual banquet September 23, at the Shoreview Community Center.

The Luther Granquist Systems Change Award honors an individual or organization that creates significant system change through individual, legal, or public policy advocacy. It is named after a Minnesota Disability Law Center attorney and advocate. The 2016 award is shared by U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson.

They are honored for their work to develop and approve Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. The plan, which is to maximize inclusion and independence of Minnesotans with disabilities in their communities, is a strong blueprint for an inclusive future. They helped state officials to begin thinking in terms of individual freedom, rights, respect, dignity and the expectation of the most integrated setting for all.

Settlement of a lawsuit with the Minnesota Department of Human Services in December 2011 included Frank’s requirement that the state develop such a plan. Frank constantly pushed for the creation of measureable goals and comprehensive plans. He rejected several initial draft plans because they lacked focus or detail He asked Thorson to mediate with the Olmstead Sub-cabinet. Thorson put in many hours on the plan.

By then Tingerthal was sub-cabinet leader. Tingerthal’s work received praise from her state agency colleagues, as encouraged them to stay focused on the Olmstead Plan’s overarching vision of inclusion, focusing on measurable goals and comprehensive work plans. Mediation resulted in 34 measurable goals. The revised plan was submitted to the U.S. District Court and approved in September 2015.

Frank and Thorson were also instrumental in creating the Disability Law website, and in other efforts to educate the public and Minnesota Bar Association members about disability rights.

The Community Innovator Award is given to a unique program, service or idea that increases community inclusion or self-determination of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Winner Minnesota Project SEARCH began in 2007. Today there are seven Project SEARCH sites including Medtronic, Fairview Lakes Medical Center, Children’s Minnesota, Hennepin County Medical Center, Avera Health and Mayo Clinic. New this fall is the State of Minnesota/Project SEARCH site.

Through innovative thinking and collaboration, Project SEARCH sites create strong partnerships among state agencies and local groups to prepare students with disabilities for work.

Several state agencies and private partners work with Project SEARCH. Business-community partnerships are the bedrock of Project SEARCH’s ability to prepare students to be a part of the Minnesota workforce talent pool. As of May 2016, 74.3 percent of student interns who complete the program find competitive employment within six months after graduation.

The Inclusive Housing Award honors individuals, agencies, and organizations that provide outstanding support for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they can live in the community in the least restrictive environment possible. The honoree is Pam Janczewski of Hammer Residences in Wayzata.

Janczewski is passionate about making sure her clients are active in the community and leading integrated lives. She helps clients find apartments, increase independence and be as self-sufficient as possible. She is a quiet leader and unsung hero.

Janczewski brings a “can do” attitude to whatever the task is at hand. She helped a young man who has a significant hearing impairment and high needs, working with his family, medical providers and assistive technology companies to develop unique supports. He lives in an apartment, communicates with others, and maintains safety with use of emergency support systems. Her strong advocacy and support gave this young man an opportunity that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The Teacher of the Year Award honors a teacher who has demonstrated excellence in educating and including students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Winner Paulette Krawczyk teaches allday kindergarten at St. Jerome School, Maplewood and is honored for her work with two students with autism. Krawczyk met with parents to understand the students’ needs and strengths.

Krawczyk assessed what students needed to learn best and found the best approaches for teaching everyone. All her activities, whether academic, play or extracurricular, involved everyone. Students learned how to be inclusive.

Parent Kelly Kausel said her child showed much growth in social skills and intellectual performance by year’s end. The Kausels felt their concerns were heard and thoughts and expertise were valued. Children in Krawczyk’s class followed her lead and readily included both of the students in school activities. Krawczyk’s efforts to create a welcoming, inclusive, and stimulating classroom made a difference for everyone involved.

Two people were given the Irving Martin Professional of the Year Award, which honors an individual employed in community services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Recipients have demonstrated sensitivity and ability to provide outstanding service, resulting in increased independence for clients. The award is named after self-advocate Irving Martin.

Rick Grimes is a job developer for Opportunity Partners, working with individuals with disabilities. He uses a one-on-one approach that meets each individual’s needs. He identifies skills and abilities and how those match employers’ needs.

He helps clients prepare resumes and cover letters, fill out applications, and prepare for interviews. He helps job seekers discuss fears, strengths and employment supports. Once a job is found, Grimes acts as a job coach. He is effective at developing trusted, long-lasting employer relationships.

Grimes has helped more than 90 people find jobs in the community. His department’s retention rate was 84 percent retention rate in 2014 and 2015. The successes are reinforced by glowing comments Grimes receives from employers, referral sources, colleagues and most importantly, his clients.

Julie Kenney is executive director of Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration, and Inclusion (IPSII). Through IPSII’s On Eagles Wings programs, Kenney taught a five-month leadership training for African-American parents who have children with developmental disabilities. The programs have trained more than 90 parents and self-advocates on individual rights, public policy advocacy and self-advocacy skills. They have learned about the Olmstead Plan, visited the capitol and told their stories to legislators. Graduates showed dramatic improvement in independence, self-determination and inclusion.

IPSII has also focused on increasing emergency preparedness for families and their children with disabilities. After the 2011 tornado in North Minneapolis, Kenney trained self-advocates, families and service providers how to create emergency plans. More than 200 people learned to respond to natural disasters and similar crises.

The Employer of the Year Award honors an employer with an exceptional record of providing inclusive, competitive employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Burnet Title—Edina makes a priority to create a work environment that is diverse and recognizes the skills, talents and abilities of all and gives every employee the chance to grow, learn and contribute. It shows the value of each employee’s contributions and abilities by paying competitive wages.

Burnet worked with Kaposia and a client with disabilities in his search for a competitive job. Company staff gave him a look at the work environment and expectations in the production support department. He shared his abilities, skills, and interests with Burnet’s team. They recognized that working here could be a good fit. He has since benefitted from support and training, has increase his skills and confidence, and has in turn assumed more responsibilities.

The Andrew R. Richardson Advocacy Award honors a person or organization that speaks for and raises awareness of the rights, needs, abilities and acceptance of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Richardson was a strong advocate for disability rights. Winner James Backstrom has been Dakota County Attorney since 1987. He recognizes the importance of bringing justice to all victims of crime, including those with disabilities.

Backstrom has initiated actions to protect children and vulnerable adults. He has vigorously prosecuted cases to bring justice to crime victims with disabilities. He urges his colleagues to prosecute crimes against people with disabilities.

Backstrom has spoken about disability justice at continuing legal education courses and has worked to educate attorneys and law enforcement about issues affecting people with disabilities. His knowledge and passion
for disability justice have been disseminated through a law school journal and videotaped segments on the Disability Justice Resource Center website.

The Bill Sackter Citizenship Award honors an outstanding individual with disabilities who is an achieving, included member of the community, named after the subject of the movie Bill. Winner Robbie Reedy lived in an institution, where he was abused. Yet he has maintained his optimism despite some very difficult life experiences. Reedy participates in the Bold Choice Theatre group in Duluth. He works at the Black Bear Casino in Carlton and at Miller Hill Subaru in Hermantown. He serves on the Self Advocates Minnesota Board. Reedy has a vast base of knowledge on many disability issues.

A member on the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, Reedy has served for several years as its vice chair of public policy. He has listened to countless presenters and guests, and though he asks direct and sometimes hard questions, he always has done so with respect, insight and charm.