Geraldine P. Waldorf, Making A Difference Award

The Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities gives the Geraldine P. Waldorf, Making A Difference Award each year to recognize the outstanding and important contributions made to improve the lives and inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the District of Columbia. Outstanding contributions can be in the areas of self-determination or advocacy, education, early intervention, health, or employment. Nominees may include a person with lived experience of intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), family member of a person with IDD, advocate, health mental or health care provider, direct support/service provider, policy maker, program administrator, or others who support the inclusion of people with IDD in community life. The nominee must reside or work in the District of Columbia.

2020 Award Recipient

This year we are pleased to announce the award recipient is Theresa Vargas, a Metro columnist for the Washington Post, focused on issues that affect the lives of this District’s most vulnerable populations. Theresa Vargas has written 38 articles for the Washington Post that amplify the voices and issues of individuals with developmental and other disabilities and their families - with a total of 28 that were were published since her assignment to the Metro post in 2018. The interests and needs of people with developmental disabilities are often overlooked, particularly in journalism. One of Theresa Vargas's articles spurred action within the District’s developmental disability community when it inspired many to assert their rights to be included in policy decisions that affect the lives they lead each and everyday ⎯ “Nothing about us without us.” Her outstanding journalism serves as a catalyst to elevate the interests and needs of people with developmental disabilities in a palpable and compelling manner, and in a platform that maximizes public awareness and understanding. The GUCEDD honors Theresa Vargas for using journalism to advocate for the well-being of people with developmental disabilities and advocating for their inclusion in all aspects of community life.

Past Award Recipients

2020
Theresa Vargas, Washington Post Reporter
Since her assignment to the Metro post in 2018, Ms. Vargas’s outstanding journalism serves as a catalyst to elevate the interests and needs of people with developmental disabilities in a palpable and compelling manner, and in a platform that maximizes public awareness and understanding. The GUCEDD honors Theresa Vargas for using journalism to advocate for the well-being of people with developmental disabilities and advocating for their inclusion in all aspects of community life.

2019
Marisa Brown, Project Director, Former DDA Health Initiative, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Brown has spent over 35 year career as a nurse, supporting those with developmental disabilities, their families, and those DC residents from socially complex situations. During her time with the GUCEDD, she established and implemented, in collaboration with the Developmental Disabilities Administration, health care policies and practices for adults with intellectual disability and their caregivers addressing the systemic issues related to health care access and health care quality for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also spearheaded a variety of innovate projects for young children and their families including for children with developmental needs who were homeless and parents with intellectual disabilities.

2018
Michelle Hawkins, Community Liaison Specialist, Intake and Outreach, Rehabilitation Services Administration, District of Columbia Department on Disability Services. Ms. Hawkins has had a central role in informing the community on issues, supports, and services essential to D.C. citizens with disabilities, their families, and their advocates. Her tireless efforts to understand and keep the community informed have advanced the services and supports to the community and brought many to the table to inform policy.

2017
Leila Peterson, Executive Director, SchoolTalk DC
Ms. Peterson has provided leadership and collaboration to shift dispute resolution in special education to a positive opportunity for student self-advocacy and support for families through conflict resolution and constructive communication. Her continued work also brought together stakeholders and advocates creating a shared forum for issues on transition for middle and high school students in the District of Columbia.

2016
Laura Nuss, Former Director, Department on Disability Services
Ms. Nuss provided long, steady, and collaborative leadership for infrastructure, system supports, and funding to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have choices to live and work as independently as possible in their communities. She was instrumental in getting the Home and Community Based waiver and steered the District in meeting the Evan’s class action lawsuit requirements by working with self-advocates and community stakeholders.

2015
Shileta Gorham, Independent Living Specialist Assistant
Ms. Gorham was nominated and received the award for her work with the Youth Empowerment to Succeed (Y.E.S.) youth peer support group and training program for high school students to learn skills to be successful living in the communities of their choice. Ms. Gorham was a member of the CILs Youth Transition Team and served as a member of the DC Statewide Independent Living Council (DC SILC). Ms. Gorham was one of the featured speakers at the GUCEDD Annual conference on the subject of transition.