Sample Achievement Award Essay

John Jones is a shining example of what self-advocacy should look like. He is an individual with a disability who continues to advance in his career, participate in his community, and impact policy. An employee of Acme Agency, John was once a person served. Having overcome many barriers, he is now an accomplished staff member who provides to others the same services he once received.

John relocated to Colorado from Texas. He started at Acme Agency in September 2010. He worked in the retail division where he learned how to prepare donations for sale. Not happy with this as a long-term career option, John set out on a new path. A new program, offering training in administrative and office skills, gave John the boost he needed to reach the next level. As the first graduate of the Acme Agency Training program, John was hired in an entry-level, administrative position.

When Acme Agency opened its new campus in 2012, a position opened for a receptionist to welcome visitors. He was offered (and accepted) the position – becoming a full-fledged employee of the organization earning hourly wages and benefits. John had overcome so many hurdles, he was an example to his peers.

John spent a few successful years as the greeter for a large employment training center in the Executive Office of Colorado’s premier disability services provider. John’s supervisor suggested a promotion, but John refused. Instead, he chose to steer his path into direct care.

Today, John is a direct care service provider for people who have significant disabilities. He has mastered many of the technical aspects of compliance and advocates for the rights of the people he serves. As a care provider, John is a true advocate.

This new position gave him the opportunity to shine even brighter. As a developing self-advocate, John had the opportunity to help others get their voices heard. John was elected as vice chair of the local chapter of Team Colorado in October 2015. When the chairperson relocated early in 2017, John assumed the additional responsibility. The chapter, which meets monthly, has approximately 70 members made up of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The local chapter of Team Colorado is the state’s largest self-advocacy organization serving people with disabilities.

John presented testimony at the Colorado Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities in February 2018, in support of employment choices for people with disabilities. He works closely with his fellow Board members and leadership in the local chapter of Team Colorado. As chairperson, John participated in a Virtual Town Hall with Congressman Adams in April 2018, where he presented questions from his members. He helped bring representatives from the Colorado Voting District to his meetings to discuss voting procedures, how to use voting machines, and how to get help when voting. He enlisted the help of the Colorado Disability & Advocacy Center to assist in voter registrations and talk about the importance of participation. The local chapter of Team Colorado, under John’s leadership, has provided its members both with a strong voice in the community and easy access to information.

John has applied for membership on the statewide Commission for Services for People with Disabilities, and his acceptance is pending a vote next month. To prepare for the road ahead and the public speaking necessary to tell his own story, John enrolled in, and is an active member of, his local Toastmasters group. This year is the culmination of his efforts. His story exemplifies how becoming involved, engaging our communities, and advocating for services can have a significant impact on individual outcomes. John’s self-advocacy efforts on behalf of himself and his peers continues to change the lives of the people around him.