2015 Community Partnership Awardees

Community Partnership Award recipients from left to right: Kendra Edmonds, Sara Diaz, Dr. Julie Hackett, Dalene Basden, Kathy Tremble,  Jerlyn Dowe, Laura Kay, Heidi Stier-Barberio, and Hailey Manduca (pictured on the next page)  - Conference photos courtesy of Melanie McLaughlin -

Community Partnership Award recipients from left to right: Kendra Edmonds, Sara Diaz, Dr. Julie Hackett, Dalene Basden, Kathy Tremble, Jerlyn Dowe, Laura Kay, Heidi Stier-Barberio, and Hailey Manduca (pictured below) – Conference photos courtesy of Melanie McLaughlin

Inclusive General Education Teacher Award – Laura Kay: Laura Kay has been a Latin teacher at Walpole High School for nine years. She teaches five classes ranging from Introduction to Latin to AP Latin. Laura is also the school’s National Honor Society advisor. In that role, she has trained NHS students to help other students in specific subjects as part of a Peer-to-Peer Tutoring Lab. Laura is skilled at working with honor students but is equally adept at working with students with learning challenges. Laura has high expectations while also intuitively making appropriate modifications and accommodations, allowing all students to thrive. Laura loves to travel and is an avid runner. She plans to run the Boston Marathon this April.

Inclusive Recreation Award – Heidi Stier-Barberio: Heidi Stier-Barberio is a paraprofessional in the Waltham Public School System working with children with learning disabilities. She also works part time for Belmont SPORT (Special Programs Organized for Recreation Time) which is a year round program for adults with special needs. Heidi includes everyone she meets into activities in the community or within the school setting. Heidi spearheaded the creation of Nothing’s Impossible Baseball, a program for children with special needs who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to play baseball. Heidi also co-founded the Watch City Seals Special Olympic swim team. A nomination for this award summarized Heidi’s contributions to the community by explaining “what is so special about Heidi is that she doesn’t realize how special she is. She treats everyone as though they were the only person in the room; she has a magical way of making you feel special.”

Parent Leadership Award – Sara Diaz: Sara Diaz has been working with parents of children with special needs in the Hispanic community for more than 15 years. After moving to the United States from Colombia and having a son with Down syndrome, Sara dedicated herself to helping her son and other parents of children with disabilities. She currently works at TILL Inc. where she coordinates a Parent Support Group for Children with Autism. Previously, she held positions with Early Intervention and the Federation for Children with Special Needs.Sara recognizes the potential in all children and works with families to ensure they have the hope and courage they need to support their children.The Hispanic community is privileged to have such a dedicated advocate.

Community Volunteer Award – Kendra Edmonds: Kendra Edmonds is an educational decision maker for students in Massachusetts whose parents are unknown or unavailable. Through her work as a Special Education Surrogate Parent at the Federation’s Recruitment, Training and Support Center (RTSC), she understands the unique challenges of the students in the RTSC program and fully advocates for those who face cultural and socio-economic challenges. Kendra works with students who want to have community involvement and extra-curricular activities such as art. Getting services for students in residential care is very challenging, yet Kendra works diligently to make sure these students receive the services they need.

Parent Advocacy Award – Dalene Basden: Dalene Basden has been a Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PAL) Family Support Specialist in Lynn since 1998. She is the parent of two boys with special health care needs. In her role, Ms. Basden provides advocacy, information, education, and referrals to families of children who have serious emotional disturbance. Dalene has worked tirelessly to make the system serving children with mental health issues and their families more responsive to the needs of families in the community. Dalene runs an enormously successful family support group on Friday nights. Her weekly Friday Family Support Group has an average attendance of 45 parents and their children. Through this group Dalene has provided continuous education and training to parents in all areas related to children’s mental health. Dalene encourages parents to become experts in those areas of children’s mental health that affect them directly and to share what they have learned with the group and the professionals that support families in the Greater Lynn community. In November of 2012, Dalene became the first nationally certified Parent Support Provider in the state of MA.

Rosa Angelica Colon (l)  and Hailey Manduca (r)

Rosa Angelica Colon (l)
and Hailey Manduca (r)

Self-Advocacy Award – Hailey Manduca: Hailey Manduca is a 16-year-old from Bourne, Massachusetts who loves to sing in her church choir and participate in Girl Scouts. Hailey also has a severe form of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare genetic condition also known as Brittle Bone Disease. Hailey began Girl Scouts at five years old and recently completed her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. As part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Hailey decided to make a documentary and raise awareness for Osteogenesis Imperfecta. She created the video for doctors, nurses, and new families. She wanted patients, families, and medical personnel to better understand Osteogenesis Imperfecta. In addition, Hailey made flyers and started a Facebook Page on Osteogenesis Imperfecta. She also gives talks to medical students and medical professionals about the disease. To quote Hailey from her recent article in the Cape Cod Times, “Even though it gets tough, your spirit can never be broken.” Hailey’s troop leader described Hailey by saying “Hailey is an important member of my Girl Scout troop and her perseverance, strength and positive attitude is an inspiration not only to her fellow Girl Scouts but also to others around the world.”

Special Health Care Advocacy Award – Kathy Tremble: Kathy Tremble is a registered nurse and certified care manager with over 30 years of experience working with children and families. She provides care coordination at Holyoke Pediatrics for children and youth with acute and chronic disease, complex medical and developmental conditions and those at risk, due to poverty or other barriers. Kathy’s work focuses on connecting children and their families with appropriate care, services and resources essential for their optimal wellness and functioning. Kathy finds it rewarding to help families find high quality care for their children while providing a broad base of meaningful support to families. One family said it best, “There are no road maps for when your child gets sick. There are no instruction booklets for when your child has a disability. Kathy was all those things and more for us!” Kathy is very active in her community; she is a member of the Mansir Foundation Committee that funds therapeutic equipment and services for children with physical disabilities, a member of Medical Home work group, and serves on the board of Holyoke Reach Out and Read. Kathy holds a master’s degree in public health from University of Connecticut and degrees in health education and nursing from Springfield College and Springfield Technical Community College.

School Administrator Award – Dr. Julie Hackett: Dr. Julie Hackett has been a public educator since 1992, and her background includes experience at the elementary, middle, high school, and post-secondary levels. She is currently the Superintendent of Taunton Public Schools. In this role, she has worked tirelessly to implement an inclusive school system in Taunton Public Schools. Through this initiative, she worked to build consensus and cooperation with teachers, school leaders, district leaders, the Taunton Teachers Association President, and parents and representatives of the School Board. Julie’s efforts have produced policies and educational practices that provide a District-wide model of inclusion. This model gives all students an opportunity to learn with their peers in the least restrictive environment. Julie has held to the vision of “academic excellence for every student, in every classroom, in every school”. Julie leads by example and brings to her leadership role the qualities of integrity, selflessness, knowledge, values of social justice and equity for all students, as well as a determination to have everyone succeed.

Inclusive Special Education Teacher Award – Darlene Ohlenbusch: Darlene Ohlenbusch has been a special education teacher at the Andover West Middle School for 6 years. During her time there, she has made a tremendous impact in the lives of students at both the Andover West Middle School and Andover High School through her work implementing a peer mentor program. Darlene and her staff train students to mentor students with disabilities. The program has been a huge success, encouraging students with and without disabilities to forge friendships, understand one another, and help each other. The peer mentors in Darlene’s program have gone on to Andover High School, where the program has expanded. Darlene’s mentor program demonstrates what meaningful inclusion can look like and how students can become whole heartedly engaged in the process. Darlene’s compassion and persistence has changed the lives of students with and without disabilities through this mentor program. Darlene has two children and loves to read, walk the dog, and do puzzles with her family.