2022 "We Are Worth It." Direct Support Professional Award Winners

Every fall at PAR's Solutions Conference, we celebrate the "We Are Worth It." award winners. These awards honor outstanding individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary and innovative support and action that lead people with intellectual disability and/or autism to live meaningful and inclusive lives. These winners are honored for transforming lives by supporting people to achieve their personal outcomes while actively engaging in their communities.


Anthony "Tony" Lee
Direct Support Professional Family Relationship Award
UCP of Central PA 

Anthony’s history with Jerry and his family dates back nearly a decade. In fact, Anthony was a vital part of the team that helped Jerry successfully transition from the county jail to a UCP-owned community home. Over the years, Jerry had many DSPs, supervisors, and managers enter his life, only to leave. As a result, he withdrew and became reluctant to form relationships. Anthony recognized Jerry’s need for stability and consistency; he made a vow to be that for him. Anthony committed himself to a career of providing direct support that would contribute to Jerry’s personal growth and self-worth. He has worked alongside Jerry to discover his potential and realize his capabilities.     

Anthony is not only large in frame; he has a huge heart. And he has served as a tower of strength for Jerry’s family since the father passed away some years ago. Knowing that both Jerry and his family were grieving, Anthony made a point of reassuring the mom that her son was in good hands. Since then, he has nurtured a close relationship with Jerry’s mother and siblings, so much so that they invite him to family gatherings to show their appreciation for his devotion to them.    

Anthony looks after the wellbeing of the entire family: by supporting Jerry, as communicator and confidante to mom, and close friend to the siblings.


Boima Cooper
Direct Support Professional Length of Service Award 
Keystone Human Services

Boima Cooper has been a Direct Support Professional with Keystone Human Services for more than 10 years. Boima is a Direct Support Professional who is regarded as dependable, flexible, and solution-focused. Recently, Bioma worked with his peers and management to assure the people he supports were not impacted in any way during his supervisor’s extended leave.      

Boima volunteered to assume additional responsibilities while his supervisor was on leave. These additional responsibilities involved supporting people to coordinate participation in activities and events in their local community, and has provided CPS services when necessary, so the people he supports are able maintain their expected schedule for this desired service. Boima is particularly adept with supporting people to successfully understand and complete medical appointments. Recently, Boima participated in planning for a required medical procedure with a person he supports and this person’s clinical team. The individual was scheduled for a medical procedure that required 16 hours of fasting prior to the procedure. The team developed a plan to support this person through the fasting and Boima volunteered to be with him in the 16 hours leading up to the procedure. Boima chose to fast with the individual to provide encouragement and support during the fasting hours. Unfortunately the procedure was delayed by 5 hours, and Boima stayed with the individual and continued to fast himself, to help the individual successfully complete the fasting.      

These are just a few examples of how Boima works with his team and the people he supports. Boima’s willingness to take on additional tasks, and sometimes difficult tasks, and his ability to adapt to different situations enhances the lives of the people he supports. We thank you, Boima, for your dedication and creativity to the supports you provide.


Meagan Comereski
Direct Support Professional Advocate of the Year
Penn York Opportunities 

Meagan Comereski started at Penn York Opportunities as a Direct Support Professional in CPS programming in January of 2017. Meagan moved to Home and Community programming full time in July of 2017. Meagan works with Sydney who had a child in 2018. Meagan was a part of a multi-agency team who provided 24 hour supports to Sydney after she had expressed that she wanted to be a mother and keep her child with her. Meagan and other team members, covered staying with Sydney when her child was an infant around the clock, worked with her on parenting skills, made sure she understood and could care for her child independently.  This family relationship is ongoing as Meagan supports Sydney with safety and child development skills several times a week. Meagan has developed checklists for safety, worked on potty training skills and has helped explain doctor appointments. Meagan continues to work hard and advocate for Sydney to keep her child at home with her. This is one of the many ways Meagan has strengthened a family relationship and advocated for an individual allowing them to keep a strong family bond in place for the past four years. Meagan has gone on to provide advocacy and parenting skills to other individuals who have their children in their homes with them. This has made it possible for three other young mothers to be supported and enjoy an everyday life with their families without question.      

Most recently, Meagan started working with a young man who was about to lose his home. Meagan jumped right in and helped Roger get his apartment cleaned up. She also has worked with Roger attending programming and appointments more consistently. Roger and Meagan have developed a special relationship. Even on her days off, she and Roger have a quick check in daily to make sure he is okay and is doing the things he needs to do. 

Due to Meagan’s efforts, Roger was able to keep his apartment and is looking forward to increasing his services. For Roger, Meagan has become a very trusted Direct Support Professional for our individuals.


Nicole Zeigler
Emerging Direct Support Professional of the Year
Penn-Mar Human Services

In the eight months since beginning her position as a Penn-Mar Human Services DSP, Nicole has demonstrated extraordinary support and action in transforming the lives of people she supports in residential services.    

When Nicole first came into the home, one of the individuals hadn’t been getting out in the community at all. The reasons for this were due to significantly food seeking, taking food off people’s plates in restaurants, regularly opening up food items at the grocery store, and even eloping to the neighbor’s house to take food from their kitchen. On top of these concerns, the person Nicole supports has medical diagnoses that curtailed long periods of time out of the home.    

To help tackle these obstacles and behaviors, Nicole taught the person some sign language to help her communicate when she needed to use a restroom. She taught her how to use an iPad to inform staff of places she would like to go, and created an activity schedule. Nicole also implemented training with staff to better understand behaviors and successfully address them, as well as understand her nutritional needs. Today, her behaviors around food have stopped. She is happier, she smiles and laughs, something we never saw before.     

Another resident Nicole supports would often refuse to shower, take her medication, or go out in the community except to buy fast food. With a weekly activity schedule, this person is now eager to get up and shower and prepare for her day. She is bowling, and shopping and enjoying walks in the park, something she did not like to do in the least. The turnaround with the people Nicole supports has been nothing short of a miracle.


2021 Regional Winners

Abigail Celesky
UCP of Central PA - Central 

Christopher Kerrick
The ReDCo Group - Northeast

Phyllis Tarpley
PATH, Inc. - Southeast

Sarah Gibson
Lakeshore Community Services - Western


2020 Regional Winners

Kaitlyn Walk
UCP of Central PA - Central

Samuel Fatta
Access Services - Northeast

Nicholas Smith
SPIN, Inc. - Southeast

Mark Kiger
Fayette Resources - Western


2019 Regional Winners

Kristin Tersterman
Keystone Human Services - Central 

Danielle O’Malley
Keystone Community Resources - Northeast

Amanda Stifnell
Access Services - Southeast

Karrie Schindler
Mainstay Life Services - Western


2018 Regional Winners

Alene Tesfay
Friendship Community - Central

Luz Diaz-Vincent
Keystone Human Services - Northeast

Walter Hardy
Delta Community Supports, Inc. - Southeast

Tamara Pudder
Lakeshore Community Services - Western