AwardsDSP and Tip of the Spear Awards


2017 DSP and Tip of the Spear awards


The 2017 Direct Support Professionals Awards highlighted those who demonstrate exceptional performance in serving individuals with disabilities.  Also selected was a "Tip of the Spear" award for an individual who inspires others to take action benefiting people with disabilities.  The winners are:

  • Tip of the Spear- Pam Gonnella, parent, advocate, Chair of Best Life Alliance
  • Employment Service- Job Coach Greater Minnesota-  Megan Wark, Polk County DAC, East Grand Forks
  • Employment Service- Job Coach Metro, Lisa Vitkus, Opportunity Partners
  • Enrichment Focus- Metro, Tammy Schexnaider, Partnership Resources
  • Enrichment Focus- Greater Minnesota, Darcy Meagher, Functional Industries

Here are a few comments from the 2017 honorees:

"For the last two years, I’ve been working at the legislature … trying to explain to them why these people (DSPs) are so important to the success of my daughter," Pam Gonnella.


Megan Wark said her job is highly rewarding and that she truly loves coming to work. “We are very blessed,” she said. “I get to get these guys out in the community more and it seems like that’s what they enjoy most.” People with disabilities sometimes struggle with having days off because they truly love coming to work, she explains.


Lisa Vitkus likes the variety, flexibility and mobility of her job. Growing up, she learned that finding a job isn’t necessarily about the pay, but enjoying the work. “It’s a ‘following your bliss’ kind of approach,” said Vitkus. “Finding something you care about … it’s about enjoying what you do and having fun doing it.”


Tammy Schexnaider said compassion and patience are important skills she uses in her job. Helping people to see their own potential to reach their goals and dreams is another aspect. “It is important for them to realize that they have choices and that they are able to blossom,” she said.


“I go because I like what I do. I like helping people with disabilities. That’s my way of life,” said Darcy Meagher. She said the participants she serves are always in her heart, and that she thinks about them constantly. One of the people in her group is her daughter, who is 21.



2016 DSP Awards

2016 Direct Service Professional Award Winners

Direct support professionals from across Minnesota have been honored for their exceptional, dedicated and caring service for people with disabilities by the organization representing the state’s nonprofit providers of training and employment services.

The five individuals cited by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation come from organizations in both northern and western locations, as well as the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The 2016 MOHR awards, presented at the annual training conference in Onamia, were given in two broad categories, enrichment and employment.

Enrichment Greater MN

Julie Clarke, Polk County DAC

Julie has modeled a creative and superior work ethic that serves clients, co-workers, and administrative staff. She adapts well to those individuals she works with providing the same quality programming to total care individuals as she does those who have more abilities. She helps all the individuals to achieve greater independence. Julie provides feedback to staff on an individual basis and in staff meetings. She asks questions, brainstorms, gives comments, and renews the idea of what communication should be like! Julie is person centered and uses all of her times with person served in productive ways. Julie is a visionary. She develops a do able path to the end goal. She is gregarious, optimistic, energetic, and genuine! Julie is a brand name in the generic isle.

Employment Greater MN

Ashley Nordlie, Functional Industries, Inc.

Ashley has been the Transition Services manager for Functional Industries for the three years. In her role she wears many different hats each and every day! Ashley is a leader who encourages, respects, and supports the students that she works with all the time. She has confidentially integrated herself into the business community which has further assisted her to develop strong, professional relationships with businesses for work experience sites for students. Last but not least, Ashley is creative, patient, and resourceful whose gentle nature splashed with her dash of directedness has given her the ability to truly connect with the individuals she serves, empowering them to achieve things they may have thought not possible.

Enrichment Metro

Sue Krause, Rise, Inc.

Sue is an amazing advocate for those that she supports and serves. Her number one passion is to walk along the journey with each person to see them accomplish everything that they can for themselves. She is consistently looking for new and creative ideas to stimulate and broaden the cultural impact of all those who come to Rise. She was instrumental in arranging the Katha Dance Theater in coming to Rise to share both their culture and dance. Sue is always looking for opportunities to enrich each person’s life. Sue is also passionate about participating with advocacy and Rally’s at the MN State Capitol. She enjoys learning and teaching advocated our legislative process. Sue is selfless and would rather see those around her be able to be ignited by the passion than being a part of it herself, giving others opportunities. She desires for her passion to be contagious. And it is!

Employment Metro

Nancy Grayson, Opportunity Partners

Nancy takes a person-centered approach to Job Development and has a realistic perspective on job retention. She assists people served with any employment issues that they may face. Nancy builds strong relationships with people served, families, and employers which pays dividends going forward. Nancy works closely with employers to learn their expectations and then coaches’ people that she supports on these expectations. Nancy helped a young man with autism who is nonverbal to land a job as a sandwich maker at Deli Express. Nancy worked alongside Joe for two weeks while he mastered the fast paced job. Now he has been working at this job on his own successfully for nearly one year! Thanks to Nancy for helping maintain and improved employment opportunities for many individuals!

Ebony Johnson, Rise, Inc.

Ebony is an Employment Consultant with Rise, Inc. She empowers people with barriers to reach their highest potential and achieve success with their employment goals. In Project Search she supports a group of transition aged youth with developmental disabilities to gain and maintain competitive employment after the completion of their transition program at HCMC. Ebony has built strong professional relationships with the individuals she support, community agencies and employers. Her ability to collaborate in a professional manner has diminished barriers that once appeared unmanageable for the purposed of gaining employment. Ebony is determined and willing to go the extra mile to support the people that she works with. She assists people with submitting applications, preparing for interviews, as well as providing transportation to interviews. She is persistent in job searches with people that she supports and does not give up!