New Voices recognizes outstanding individuals who directly serve or advocate for children who have both physical and communication challenges. Possible nominees for the Excellence Award include teachers, special educators, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, assistive technologists, etc. Possible nominees for the Advocacy Award include parents, community leaders, legislators, school administrators, principals, volunteers, etc.
Winners are honored at a receptions and will receive a cash prize of $500, trophy, and certificate.
The awards are named in memory of Lara Jane Parker.
When Lara Parker was born on April 1, 1971, she did not breathe for fifteen minutes. Her parents were told that she had little chance of surviving. But survive she did!
At nine months of age Lara was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The family hoped that she would be able to walk with braces and talk. However, the prognosis grew increasingly pessimistic over time as she failed to achieve the ability to sit, stand or verbalize. Lara was unable to walk, speak or use her hands in any purposeful way. However, as limiting as her physical abilities were, she received her undergraduate degree from the UNC – Chapel Hill in 1999 and lived in her own apartment.
Lara Parker was active in advocacy issues for the disabled. She was appointed by Governor James B. Hunter to the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, and was serving as its Vice Chair at the time of her death. She also was a member of the Executive and Systems Change Committees of the Council. As a speaker at regional and national meetings, Lara Parker inspired others with disabilities to live independently.
New Voices sponsored the North Carolina Premiere of Certain Proof: A Question of Worth, an award- winning documentary. Certain Proof was produced by Footpath Pictures in cooperation with New Voices. The film chronicles how difficult but necessary it is for families and teachers to find ways to unleash the potential of children who cannot speak or use their hands to write. Three local children starred in the film—Colin Schneider, Josh Werner, and Kay McMillan.
New Voices helped to arrange for Certain Proof co-producer Susan Ellis’s appearance on North Carolina People with William Friday. On the show Susan and Mr. Friday had a candid conversation on the challenges faced by children with communication and physical disabilities. NC People was broadcast statewide.
Certain Proof debuted at the Vail Film Festival and was also shown at festivals in Seattle, Los Angeles, Wilmington and Southern Appalachia to much acclaim. Local screenings included the Frank Porter Graham Development Institute –UNC-Chapel Hill, Merck Corporation, and William Peace University (Fall, 2012).
New Voices joined with Simon & Schuster Publishing and Quail Ridge Books to bring noted children’s author, Sharon Draper, to the Triangle area. Draper, whose recent novel Out of My Mind, tells the story of a New Voices-like child–eleven- year- old Melody who is unable to speak or walk. The novel chronicles Melody’s frustrations and successes as she is given the opportunity to communicate.
New Voices arranged for Draper, a two time Coretta Scott King award winning author, to visit three Triangle area schools—Durham’s Lowes Grove Middle School and Wake County’s Wakefield Middle School and Martin Middle School—as well as William Peace University. In addition New Voices teamed with Quail Ridge Books for an opportunity for the general public to hear Draper’s remarks about Out of My Mind. Currently New Voices is conducting a drive to place copies of Out of My Mind in North Carolina schools.
New Voices was a sponsor of the NC School Based Health Alliance Conference, held in Raleigh, NC, in December, 2011. During the conference, New Voices offered a session on the health issues that often accompany students with significant communication and mobility challenges. Don Stedman, Dr. Josh Alexander, Sandy McMillan, and Kay McMillan offered perspectives on the issues and new approaches for addressing them. New Voices also maintained an information booth throughout the conference, providing information to conferees on New Voices Foundation and the Tadpole Project.