The Guild for Human Services was pleased to nominate Hajara Nalwanga, Overnight Shift Lead at Walnut House and Karl Bernard, Residential Assistant at Sudbury House for the 2024 Direct Support Professional of the Year awards program hosted by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)! ANCOR is a national association of community-based service providers that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year, ANCOR received a record number of applications of nearly 500 for their DSP of the Year awards program.  While Hajara and Karl were not selected, we’d like to recognize their incredible work in providing person-centered services so that residents with The Guild can enjoy a high quality of life:

Hajara Nalwanga, Overnight Shift Lead, Walnut House

Hajara headshotHajara began at The Guild in February of 2022 as a Residential Assistant and has served in various capacities since. Her colleagues report that she has been a strong leader and resource for other staff members at all levels throughout her time here.

“Hajara struck me as a natural leader even back when she first started with The Guild. I can trust her with everything,” said Harriet Mabikke, former Residential Manager of Walnut House.

To Hajara, supporting students means much more than providing basic care. She is each individual’s biggest champion and strives to help them identify which activities are personally meaningful to them. Harriet speaks to one example in which Hajara helped a student discover his passion for gardening, providing him with the right amount of support while still allowing him to gain autonomy in his new-found hobby.

“Hajara takes time to know each resident, what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re passionate about – she’s just an incredibly caring employee,” said Harriet.

Karl Bernard, Residential Assistant, Sudbury HouseKarl B. headshot

Karl Bernard started at The Guild in November of 2020. His colleagues say that he understands the importance of promoting self-advocacy skills and ensures that residents can effectively express their needs at home and in the community.

“Karl understands that when people are prevented from advocating for themselves, they may be pushed to do things they don’t want to do, lose self-confidence, and feel like their life is out of their control,” said Nathalie Etame, Residential Manager of Sudbury House. “He makes sure that residents can get their needs met and express themselves.”

Colleagues also point to Karl’s ability to push himself out his comfort zone by assisting on outdoor education trips with Waypoint Adventure – even when he had never done the day’s activity before. He set a great example for house residents, many of whom have now built skills and self-confidence through outings with Waypoint.

Hajara and Karl are two of the many incredible direct support staff members at The Guild and beyond who provide tailored support to students and adults with intellectual disabilities so they can achieve their full potential. For more information about ANCOR’s direct support professional recognition program, please visit their website here.