The 2021 John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Workforce Advocacy and Leadership

by | Aug 18, 2021 | News

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Workforce Advocacy and Leadership

Jerry Smith (2021)

Image of white male with glasses wearing a grey sweater and blue button up shirt.

Jerry Smith (Institute on Community Integration)

In 1996, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals’ (NADSP) ideological founder, John F. Kennedy Jr. wrote “Quality is defined at the point of interaction between the staff member and the individual with a disability.” John’s contribution to the rich Kennedy family legacy of supporting disability issues was that of “developing a comprehensive agenda, informed public policies and effective strategies to strengthen and redefine the emerging role of direct support workers.”

Given this, NADSP’s mission is to enhance the quality of support provided to people with disabilities through the provision of products, services, and certifications which elevate the status of direct support workers, improve practice standards, promote systems reform and, most importantly, advance the knowledge, skills & values of our dedicated workforce. With great thanks to John F. Kennedy Jr. and his colleagues of more than twenty years ago, the NADSP has never been more influential on the national scene of supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. So we name this prestigious award after our founder, John F. Kennedy Jr. and bestow it upon those who have dedicated their careers to upholding this noble vision at our annual conference.

The NADSP is proud to recognize Jerry Smith, Marketing and Business Development Manager at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the University of Minnesota with the 2021 John F. Kennedy, Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership. Jerry Smith, is an award-winning filmmaker and media director specializing in documentary and educational programs supporting people with developmental and other disabilities. As a creative marketing professional, he is a leader in nurturing strategic partnerships, developing marketing and brand strategies, and curating content that brings stories about community living for people with disabilities to life. At ICI, Jerry has directed award winning films for broadcast that illuminate the critically important work of direct support professionals, most recently, Invaluable: The Unrecognized Profession of Direct Support, as well as Higher Ground: The Dedication of Direct Support Professionals During and After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (film) and We Watch the City: Stories in the Shadow of 9/11. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jerry was a leading contributor in the ICI/NADSP “DSPs and COVID-19” surveys where more than 24,000 direct support professionals shared their experiences in the largest sample of DSP responders in history. Jerry’s contributions in filmmaking, storytelling and tireless advocacy for the direct support workforce will be recognized on Monday, September 13th during the first session of the Virtual Event: From Promise To Progress. To register for this session, click here. 

To view previous John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership honorees, click here.