ANCOR in the News - 04.19.23

Community Access Unlimited’s Monique St. Clair to be Honored as ANCOR’s 2023 Direct Support Professional of the Year

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New Jersey professional joins 53 others being honored for services that empower community inclusion of people with disabilities

– Monique St. Clair, a direct support professional (DSP) at Community Access Unlimited in New Jersey, has been named the 2023 National Direct Support Professional of the Year by ANCOR, the leading national association representing providers of community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). St. Clair will be honored alongside 53 other DSPs in an awards presentation in Chicago on April 26 at ANCOR’s 2023 Annual Conference.

St. Clair, who has worked for Elizabeth, N.J.-based Community Access Unlimited for more than 10 years, was selected for this honor due to her unwavering commitment to providing personalized supports so that each person she supports is able to access their community more fully.

According to St. Clair’s nomination letter, she is a professional who prioritizes building trust and “strongly believes in the importance of providing individuals with the supports they need to reach their full potential as valued members of society.” St. Clair’s nomination materials went on to offer several examples, such as her determination and commitment to researching and seeking out accessible community events and experiences for people with various types of disabilities. Whether that is seeking out movie theaters and showtimes that offer audio descriptions so a person she supports who has low vision could experience his first-ever audio-described movie, or accompanying another person she supports to a networking event for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Monique reflects the power of direct support in creating more inclusive and accessible communities.

Another example in St. Clair’s nomination spoke to how the Community Access Unlimited employee has not only made true inclusion a reality, but also has supported people in achieving their goal of becoming less dependent on staff support. One of the people St. Clair supports wanted to live more independently, but a major hurdle had always been ensuring proper medications were taken when needed—amplified by the person’s low vision. St. Clair quickly worked on researching solutions and came across a talking prescription reader that allowed the person to clear a hurdle that had inhibited their independence for too long.

“Whether it’s something as simple as helping people with disabilities go to the movies or as complex as ensuring they can exercise their right to vote or pursue their career aspirations, direct support professionals like Monique [St. Clair] make clear the crucial roles this workforce plays in communities across the country,” said Diane Beastrom, president of ANCOR’s Board of Directors and president and chief executive officer of Koinonia, a disability service provider based in Independence, Ohio. “ANCOR is proud to celebrate Monique and the 53 other professionals who compose this year’s class of outstanding honorees.”

Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR, added: “Each year, we are blown away by the impact DSPs have on making communities more inclusive and better for all people. The outstanding DSPs being honored this year deliver life-enhancing supports amid no shortage of significant challenges, not the least of which is a long-standing crisis in the ability of providers to recruit and retain qualified DSPs. Through it all, these professionals demonstrate an unwavering commitment to community inclusion and to the people they support. For that reason, there’s never been a more poignant time to celebrate people like Monique [St. Clair] and more than 50 other DSPs who exemplify excellence in our field.”

Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards program has recognized outstanding individuals who deliver long-term supports and services to people with I/DD. The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring people with I/DD are included in the community—a role they continue to play despite how continued underinvestment in Medicaid has led to a long-standing crisis in the direct support workforce, characterized by low pay, high turnover and high vacancy rates.

The 2023 Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards will be presented in a ceremony underwritten by ANCOR Diamond Partner Relias on Wednesday, April 26 at 2:30 pm CDT during ANCOR’s 2023 Annual Conference in Chicago. The full list of honorees to be recognized is below. Members of the press interested in attending the awards presentation should contact Sean Luechtefeld, ANCOR’s vice president for communications, at [email protected] or 571.207.9108.

National Direct Support Professional of the Year

Monique St. Clair, Community Access Unlimited, Elizabeth, N.J.

Special Category Award Honorees

International: Jennifer Houle, BrightSpring Health Services, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Canada

Innovation: Carla Streeter, Black Hills Works, Rapid City, S.D.

Leadership: Kelley Shepherd, Mainstay Life Services, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Person-Centeredness: Dianna Wooldridge, Emory Valley Center, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Relationships: Keith Buchanan, Core Services of Northeast Tennessee, Johnson City, Tenn.

State Direct Support Professional of the Year Award Honorees

Alabama: Victoria Chaney, Sevita, Cullman

Alaska: Masaneh Jatta, Hope Community Resources, Anchorage

Arizona: Carrie Alexander, Mosaic, Phoenix

California: Joelene Walker-Stephens, Exceptional Children’s Foundation, Culver City

Colorado: Jeff McNitt, Dungarvin, Denver

Connecticut: Fenton Lewis, Dungarvin, Windsor

Delaware: Willie Newson, Mosaic, Newark

District of Columbia: Victor Mbah, RCM of Washington

Florida: Ana Ramirez, BrightSpring Health Services, Clearwater

Georgia: Vernon Nelson, BrightSpring Health Services, Atlanta

Idaho: Mickey De Kruyf, Consumer Direct Care Network, Buhl

Illinois: Charlene Vece, Trinity Services, New Lenox

Indiana: Barbara Sykes, BrightSpring Health Services, Indianapolis

Iowa: Daryl Leffler, Mosaic, Urbandale

Kansas: Angela Austin, Johnson County Developmental Supports, Lenexa

Kentucky: Abdul Alhadad, Dungarvin, Dexter

Louisiana: Denise Lee, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, New Orleans

Maine: Stella Cain, OHI, Bangor

Maryland: Vanessa Cooke, Penn-Mar Human Services, Westminster

Massachusetts: Isaac Mukwaya, The Guild for Human Services, Concord

Michigan: Terrell Presnall, BrightSpring Health Services, Lapeer

Minnesota: Christina Kurschner, Mt. Olivet Rolling Acres, Victoria

Mississippi: Katrina Watkins, Sevita, Flowood

Missouri: Anna Carroll, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis

Nebraska: Susan Foltz, BrightSpring Health Services, Lincoln

Nevada: Richard Burton, Dungarvin, Las Vegas

New Hampshire: Matthew Ennist, Aspire Living & Learning, Nashua

New Jersey: Tawanna Ward, Dungarvin, Princeton

New Mexico: Rynell Balchunas, Dungarvin, Grants

New York: Samantha Anthony, Liberty ARC, Amsterdam

North Carolina: Kelli Vega, Dungarvin, Graham

North Dakota: Massalan Bility, Sevita, Grand Forks

Ohio: Hope Johnson, I Am Boundless, Worthington

Oklahoma: Bill Koscher, Dungarvin, Oklahoma City

Oregon: Kaleen Hawk, Community Support Services, Salem

Pennsylvania: Deseret Traupman, Peaceful Living, Harleysville

Rhode Island: William Menihan, West Bay Rhode Island, Warwick

South Carolina: Sheila Whitehurst, Sevita, Piedmont

South Dakota: Rebecca Lange, LifeScape, Sioux Falls

Tennessee: Elijah Aluoch, Community Options, Inc., Chattanooga

Texas: Cynthia Longoria, BrightSpring Health Services, Harlingen

Utah: Jackie Wright, Chrysalis, Murray

Vermont: Julie Maskell, Green Mountain Support Services, Morrisville

Virginia: Wanda Alleyne, Consumer Direct Care Network, Virginia Beach

Washington: Mustapha Suwa, Dungarvin, Everett

West Virginia: Alyssa Malcolm, BrightSpring Health Services, Martinsburg

Wisconsin: Betty Day, Dungarvin, Milwaukee

Wyoming: Michael Davidson, Overture, Cheyenne




For more than 50 years, the American Network of Community Options and Resources ( has been a leading advocate for the critical role service providers play in enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As a national nonprofit trade association, ANCOR represents nearly 2,000 organizations employing more than a half-million professionals who together serve more than a million individuals with I/DD. Our mission is to advance the ability of our members to support people with I/DD to fully participate in their communities.