University of Del. student receives Self-Advocacy Award
Area residents who know Jeffrey “Jay” Siegel have learned not to doubt him.
Last spring, when the popular senior at Unionville High wanted to speak at commencement on behalf of his graduating class, some wondered whether his Down syndrome would hold him back. It didn’t: He wowed the crowd at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, garnering a standing ovation.
On Sunday, Nov. 17, Siegel continued to earn praise, receiving one of 10 of Chester County’s 2013 Self-Determination Awards at an annual luncheon at Wyndham Garden Hotel in Exton.
Last year, Siegel was one of only seven students with intellectual disability accepted to Career and Life Skills, a two-year program at the University of Delaware. Siegel, who received the Self-Advocacy Award at the luncheon, has sought out opportunities at the university and has become involved in such activities as “Yes We Can” Adult Disabilities Group, the UD Best Buddies Chapter, Intermural Basketball, Yoga, and Ballroom Dancing, a county news release said.
Other accolades at the luncheon included a Sportsmanship Award, which went to Michelle Diamond, a blind Special Olympian who competes in basketball. Determined to involve herself in as many aspects of the practices and games as possible, Diamond scored points by making foul shots in a tournament last season. Her patience and determination to learn have inspired both her teammates and coaches, the release said.
County officials said the annual event gives Chester County’s intellectual disability community the opportunity to recognize and focus on individual abilities, skills and contributions. Other winners were Community Participation, Lindsey Madden; Employment, Maria Petrillo and Daniel Crawford; Talents/Hobbies, Brent Sullivan; Responsibility, Elwood Lahn; Community Independence, Scott Johnson; Home Choice, Clifford Moore; Against All Odds, Margaret Bickert, the release said.
The annual Self-Determination Awards Luncheon is financed through fund-raising events and donations from local businesses, service providers, families and stakeholders. It is organized through a collaborative effort of three groups. Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MH/IDD) provides services and supports for those with intellectual disability, helping individuals lead quality lives. Chester County Independent Monitoring for Quality is the only independent, state nonprofit-monitoring organization, which gathers information to improve the intellectual disability service system. The Self Determination Action Team is made up of a diverse group of individual and self-advocates working to empower people with intellectual disabilities.