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Young leaders recognized at State House for commitment to individuals with developmental disabilities

Baker Administration Honors Members of the Department of Developmental Services’ Urban Youth Collaborative Program

The Baker Administration honored members of the Department of Developmental Services’ Urban Youth Collaborative Program (UCYP) during a celebration and awards ceremony inside the Great Hall at the State House earlier this month.  Over 220 interns, representing 21 programs throughout the state, have supported individuals with developmental disabilities at provider agencies, state operated programs and developmental centers throughout this summer.

The UCYP, which began in 1992, introduces young adults to the field of Human Services.  The program helps to build an experienced workforce for the future while supporting efforts to reduce the stigma associated with developmental disabilities.  DDS manages Urban Youth Collaborative internship programs in Boston, Cambridge/Somerville, Fall River, New Bedford, Fitchburg/Leominster, Lawrence, Lowell, Quincy, Brockton, Springfield/Westfield, Holyoke/Chicopee, Worcester, and the Central /Western region of the state.  Since its inception, over 4,000 interns have participated in the UCYP; with many former graduates now actively working in the human services field.

The State House event was lively, informative and moving as many student interns took to the microphone to share their UCYP experiences.  The common theme amongst most students was how much they learned not only about themselves, but others as well.   As Jorge Centeno stated, “My experience during this time working with individuals has been wonderful.  While working with them I made a lot of connections with the individuals.  For me, the individuals teach me more than I thought they would, and that’s something I’ll never forget.  Honestly, they will always have a place in my heart.”

Similarly, John Cronin noted, “The internship has taught me, and opened my eyes so much.  The individuals I work with have never failed to make me laugh.  They have showed me the lighter side of life.  They have challenged me, and shown me how passionate I am in making a difference in another’s life.  I came in wanting to make a difference in other people’s lives, but the people I have worked with made a bigger mark on my life than I have on theirs.” 

Through their heart-felt words, the UCYP interns dispelled some notions that people may have on the youth of today.  These young people were serious, dedicated and passionate about their work.  Theresa Rook, a second year intern, spoke of how the program “has shaped me into a better person, and I am very thankful to be here today. Some of the greatest impacts I have from my experience the past two summers are things my individuals have taught me.  They teach me to love every moment of life and to always look at positive qualities in people.” 

Like Theresa, many of the interns are veterans of the program.  Including, Amanda Zamis who just completed her third summer in UYCP.   Amanda is entering her senior year at the University of New Hampshire majoring in Communications Sciences Disorders or commonly referred to as Speech Therapy. She is convinced that her UCYP experience will help her in her future career, noting that, “the Urban Youth Collaborative Program has confirmed my desire to continue to study and work as a speech therapist when I graduate.”     

Like Amanda, Jaime Bailey has spent the last three summers in the UCYP.  She spoke of how her family is a home care provider to an individual whom has lived in her family’s on-suite apartment since Jaime was three years old.  Jaime noted that this particular woman was part of her family household and she knew her well; or at least she thought she did.  Through the UCYP, Jaime now saw the woman not only at home, but at work as well, where a whole other side of the woman emerged.  She described this woman as easy-going at home, but energetic and boisterous at work.  Thus, she noted that all people can and do have many sides.  She used a quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, to illustrate her point.

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players,

 They have their exits and entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Jaime used her UCYP experiences and Shakespeare to beautifully sum up that, “all the world is a stage for every person, no matter their abilities or disabilities.” 

Following the speeches, all 226 interns received a certificate of completion form DDS Commissioner Elin Howe.  The event concluded with the presentation of three awards; the Current Service Award, the Steven E. Collins Leadership Award, and the Paulette Anjorin Community Service Award.  The Current Service Award is given to a current UCYP participant that has shown excellence in the program.   The winner this year was Bertholyn (Tony) Alexandre.  The Steven E. Collins Leadership Award is named after Steven E. Collins, the former director of the Human Services Coalition and a tireless advocate for people with disabilities.  The winner this year was Sokha Sambun.

Bertholyn (Tony) Alexandre giving a speech as he receives the  Steven E. Collins Leadership Award

Bertholyn (Tony) Alexandre giving a speech as he receives the Steven E. Collins Leadership Award

Sokha Sambun  receiving her award

Sokha Sambun receiving her award

Finally, the Paulette Anjorin Community Service Award began as the Community Service Award in 1999.  In 2003, it was renamed the Paulette Anjorin Community Service Award after Ms. Anjorin, a dynamic trainer and a pioneer on engaging staff on the issues of diversity.  The winner this year was Gerri Dorr, the Executive Director of Turning Point.

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DDS Communications

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