On Wednesday, April 23, at the NJ Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities (NJCDD) honored individuals and organizations that have shown leadership in promoting community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities at its sixth annual Community Building Awards Luncheon.
The Community Building Awards are intended to show encouragement, support, and recognition to those who have exhibited an exceptional commitment to promoting community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities in New Jersey. Eight award categories were created to honor the hard work and dedication of these community leaders.
This year, Alexandra Jackman, a 16-year-old resident of Westfield, NJ, was awarded the Council’s Multi-Media Award for her short film, “ A Teen’s Guide to Autism”. The Multi-Media Award honors filmmakers and mainstream media outlets who present accurate and inclusive representations of people with developmental disabilities.
Alexandra Jackman recently received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award along with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her outstanding commitment and volunteer work for autism awareness.
Alexandra created a video to help educate others about Autism awareness. Schools in Westfield and all over the nation have incorporated her video in different presentations and training programs. Recently, her YouTube video has been accepted to the Palm Beach International Film Festival. It can be viewed online at http://youtu.be/p9-l19CKISg.
Alexandra explained the video has been a tool to help educate others. “The number of people who have watched and commented on it is more than I had ever hoped. I have received such heartfelt, touching messages from educators, doctors, and families who are impacted by autism and people who have autism and other special needs.”
Ms. Jackman has worked with organizations and programs such as The Friendship Circle, Temple Emanu-El’sMa’Ayan program, the Westfield Area YMCA, Sensory Theater Programs, and Autism Family Times.
According to Claudette Bardwill, founder and president of Autism Family Times, Alexandra “has a natural way of making our special needs teens feel welcome and included.” In the past year, Jackman has also received a Youth in Action Award from the Arc of New Jersey and a Proclamation from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
In her volunteer experience, Alexandra has learned that “it’s easier than I thought to have your voice heard. Letting people know about something you feel strongly about can have an impact, and maybe even positively affect a few more people than you expected.”
In addition to honoring seven award recipients, The Council was pleased to welcome Marlene Sallo, staff director of the US commission on Civil Rights as this year’s keynote speaker.
Marlene Sallo was appointed Staff Director of the US Commission on Civil Rights by President Barack Obama on June 4, 2013. Before her appointment, she was Special Assistant to Martin R. Castro, the Chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights. She came to the Commission from the National Council of La Raza where she was a Juvenile Justice Policy Fellow advocating for the reform of juvenile justice systems. Prior to relocating to the Washington, DC area, she worked for the Children's Law Center at the University of South Carolina School of Law training attorneys and child protection employees on federal legislation pertaining to child welfare and special education.
About the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities
The NJCDD is a federally mandated organization that advocates for persons with developmental disabilities and their families in New Jersey on issues that affect their ability to live, work, and learn as included and valued members of our communities. Additionally, the Council provides programs and resources that empower such individuals to advocate on their own behalf.
For more information about the NJCDD, as well as the Council’s Community Building Awards, visit www.njcdd.org.